Cabinet Minister, Senator Mathew Samuda, has reiterated that the rehabilitation of public beaches by the Government is not aimed at limiting public access to such recreational facilities.
The assurance came amid some residents expressing concerns over recent times that the development work at some public beaches, including Little Dunn’s River in Ocho Rios, St Ann, could result in the facilities being privatised.
But, speaking while on a tour of the Little Dunn’s River beach property on Thursday, Samuda said free access to the area will be maintained.
In fact, Samuda, who is the Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation with responsibility for water, environment and climate change, announced that Prime Minister Andrew Holness intends to bring a new beach access policy to Parliament in the future.
In making the disclosure on Thursday, Samuda said the policy will guarantee access for all citizens to public beaches locally.
He said further work will be ongoing to develop public beaches, including Little Dunn’s River in St Ann.
“Everything has to be done under structure with order. Ultimately, there are other beaches within this community (Ocho Rios area) which will be restored and renovated for free access also,” he said.
Work is also to be done at the Priory Beach, also in St Ann, the minster informed.
“Now, work happening at a beach doesn’t mean that free access will be eroded.
“I want to assure citizens of North East St Ann that these facilities will be upgraded to standard that would be offered anywhere in the world, but for our citizens,” Samuda assured.
Little Dunn’s River was closed by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) in September 2022 following a murder at the location, along with concerns regarding possible reprisals.
Residents have staged several protests, calling for the attraction to be reopened, and some have taken the matter to court in order to regain access to the property. The case is ongoing.
On Boxing Day last year, Samuda announced that Little Dunn’s River would be open to the public only on Sundays.
On Thursday, he said the UDC is working on a management plan for the property.
“Prime Minister (Andrew Holness) has committed that through the UDC, we will look at a management plan and an operating plan and the infrastructural requirements over the course of this calendar year,” Samuda shared.
“The intention is to maintain this facility for the use and access of the people of North East St Ann,” he added.
The reason for not opening the facility daily is to ensure that proper security is also a feature of the new management plan, the minister stated.