Thu | Oct 18, 2018

Smooth sailing for beach upgrade project

Published:Friday | January 23, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Alessandro Boyd, Gleaner Writer

In the next few months, members of the public will be able to enjoy quality recreational spaces on beaches throughout all parishes, as all is on track for the upgrade of beaches programme.

Wykeham McNeill, minister of tourism, announced the initiative last year during the Sectoral Debates.

He noted that the initiative was in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism, the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) and the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA).

"We are now implementing a programme where at least one beach in every parish will be transformed to make quality recreational spaces available to the public, visitors and residents alike. They will operate at the best international standards," McNeill stated.

Work Under Way

Work is actively under way on these sea parks, and Burwood Beach in Trelawny is the most advanced. Providence Beach Park in Montego Bay is at the tendering stage and design work is being completed on the Norman Manley Beach Park in Negril. Great Bay at Treasure Beach, St Elizabeth, Salem in St Ann and Boston in Portland have been identified for similar upgrading.

The projected outlay on improvement of the first six beaches for the financial year 2014 to 2015 is approximately $252 million. However, the ministry, working along with NEPA and Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), will be identifying and securing leases for additional beaches, as this will be an ongoing programme.

Clyde Harrison, director of the TEF stated that all is on track with the initiative and only a few contracts were left to be signed in order to begin construction.

"Construction for Boston Beach will start in February, what we are currently doing is putting together the professional fees such as survey, design and engineering," he told The Gleaner. "Once that is finished, then the contract for Boston will be signed and we will go into mobilisation. These are short projects and will last three to four months, at most, so once we get started, then we will finish quickly," Harrison added.

Business Model

Harrison has also stated that they will be handing over these beaches to various entities such as parish councils, in order to ensure sustainability.

'We are currently looking at various options for a business model, I do not think charging for entry will be a part of the agenda as these will be public beaches for people to enjoy," he said.

"We may have various vending areas that we put at the corner of each of these beaches to support the people who come. That area could be leased and part of that fee could go towards sustainability. These beaches will be operated by organisations such as the various parish councils or NEPA, who are currently managing some of them," Harrison continued.

The beaches will provide facilities such as a children's play area, seating with tables, picnic areas and gazebos, restrooms and changing room facilities, lifeguard towers and the necessary utilities.

"These facilities will depend on the size of the beach, shape of the land and physical structures, as we do not want to overcrowd these beaches," he said.