Tue | Dec 5, 2023

Court case over Little Dunn's River closure to begin November

Published:Friday | September 22, 2023 | 11:28 AM
Attorney Marcus Goffe (right) talks with residents who have been affected by the closure of Little Dunn’s River, after the case was mentioned in the St Ann Parish Court on Thursday. - Carl Gilchrist photo

The court case between some St Ann residents and the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) over access to Little Dunn's River in Ocho Rios is set to begin on November 24.

The date for the case brought by members of the surrounding communities and the Jamaica Beach Birthright Environmental Movement (JaBBEM) was set on Thursday in the St Ann Parish Court.

The petitioners are asking the court to make a ruling that Little Dunn's River should be reopened, should not be privatised, and that the public should be allowed access to the facility.

The beach was closed in August 2022, after a killing along the roadway near the facility. The police said at the time that the beach was closed to facilitate investigation of the matter.  

This closure followed efforts by the owners, the UDC, to close the facility in 2013 amid unconfirmed reports that the land was to be privatised. Following several protests by citizens, including a church group, the facility was left open.

Last year's closure was also met with several protests, but this time the beach remained closed, forcing the court case.

Following the closure, the UDC issued a statement saying the venue was not a licensed beach.

However, users of the facility contend that it is a cheaper alternative to the tourist-focused Dunn's River Falls and Park, located a few hundred metres away.

“Little Dunn's River has been a part of the public enjoyment and natural environment of St Ann for so very long, affording persons the chance to be able to enjoy Jamaica's natural beauty and not necessarily having to go to a tourist spot to do so. It's the public's space,” attorney for the residents, Marcus Goffe, told reporters.

He continued: “So when in August last year it was closed down by the UDC, without any discussion about process, clarity as to the reasons why and any path towards any reopening, then we felt that there must be something we can do about that, certainly to preserve the public's right to that space and so we filed this action earlier this year to really preserve the public's rights to this space.

"That's what we're seeking the court to make an order on so that in the future we won't have to be having these battles as it relates to protecting the public's access rights.”

Goffe said the closure of the beach has prevented several persons from continuing to make a livelihood at the facility, even though they have paid their trade licensing fees and were paying taxes.

Meanwhile, JaBBEM president, Dr Devon Taylor, has dismissed the UDC's claim that the beach was closed because of a lack of  “basic sanitary conveniences, has no insurance coverage or other requisite permits.”

He argued that if that were the case, 90 per cent of local beaches should be closed.  

- Carl Gilchrist

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