Barbara Ellington | The new and improved Puerto Seco Beach
There is now an extended soft opening of sorts until the official opening planned for September, but with more than 800 beach lovers on some of these hot summer days, Puerto Seco Beach is already open for business.
Nestled in the 'garden parish', this much-loved, white-sand beach was the recent subject of controversy following its new management by the Guardsman Group led by Chairman, Kenneth Benjamin. It is no longer a free beach, poorly maintained and open to animals, garbage, and the ravages of time.
Those upset by the private management, hold the view that John and Jane Public will no longer be able to enjoy the facilities of the beloved piece of the rock. So as a fan of the beach for decades, and as one Jamaican who prefers to experience new changes in my island's landscape first-hand, I decided to check it out for myself.
Upon arrival with my friends, I was greeted by lush vegetation and a beautifully landscaped parking lot. Not yet at its full maturity, the plants showed promise of even more beauty to come.
Courteous staff greeted us, collected fees, and affixed our arm bands at the entry to the beach. I subtly stood close by for some five minutes to observe whether their good manners would extend to all - and it does. We also received directions to the key areas such as rest rooms on the property.
The beach is now filled with lounge chairs both with and without shade, and there are cabanas that can be rented for an additional fee for the duration of your stay. These come with butler service. If you love activity, then the newly added pool is for you. Here, entertainment coordinators take you through a slew of pool exercises and reggae dance classes. It's non-stop fun and games.
They now have an entire area for children with brightly coloured water sports equipment. Lifeguards are numerous, and all children must wear life vests.
Seniors and domino lovers spend their time at the tables while others pass the time in the lavish bar watching their favourite sporting activity on the large TV screens overhead. There is also a huge dining area where patrons can enjoy the jerked delights and other mouth watering menu items.
Whereas in the '70s, '80s, and '90s when I frequented Puerto Seco Beach armed with a loaded picnic basket and copious libations in my cooler, hoping it would last the entire day, now I just have to walk in with the lunch money and my beach paraphernalia.
I certainly did not see many middle- or upper-class rich, privileged folks. The majority were working class like me. Rich folk certainly do not arrive at the beach in dozens of coaster and JUTC buses. From the public beach, which adjoins the private property, a few swimmers venture across during the day. Once inside, they mingle harmlessly with everyone.
I like the improvements to Puerto Seco Beach. I hope Mr Benjamin and other local - yes local - investors like him will step up to the plate and resuscitate some of the many attractions across the island that are crying out for help.
Begin with our two major mineral baths. And what about Glistening Waters? How come it is not pulling Jamaicans for romantic boat rides or dinner cruises at nights? It, too, is among only a handful of similar attractions in the world. Or, Lover's Leap ... which is ripe for ziplining and other exhilarating rides. Please, money people, I beg you, invest in our natural attractions, improve them and by so doing, give locals and visitors more options on our entertainment menu.
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