Brighton Beach Rollers want say in Salt Pond facility upgrade
by Lyf Compton
The Brighton Beach Rollers, a group from the East St George community, is insisting that its members be consulted and included in a project which seeks to upgrade the facilities at the Brighton beach.
Head of the group, Elroy Arthur told SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday that last week Friday, a crew from what he has been told is the physical planning department, accompanied by the police, went to the beach and destroyed a wooden and concrete structure that the group has been using to raise funds for the upkeep of the beach among other things.
He said the group was not given any notice about the destruction.
“We want to find out what is going on. We have been cleaning and maintaining the beach, but [recently] we don’t do as much activities because a lot of persons live in the neighbourhood now and we don’t want to disturb them,” said Arthur.
He said the group has been taking care of the Brighton beach for the last 35 years, but now they have been hearing that the government will soon upgrade the facility, but without their input.
Giving some history, Arthur said that 35 years ago, the area was known as Milking Bay and there was no proper access to the beach. He said that a group of men from the area got together to make a path to the sand and clean the area.
After that, persons began to use the beach and the group renamed it the Brighton Salt Pond and has since that time been upkeeping the area.
A member of the group has also taken up residence on the beach, cleans it every day and acts as a security officer of sorts; he is not paid for this service.
Ottley Biddy, another member of the group said that before they cleaned up the area, “big bushes” blocked access to the beach.
“I start with my cutlass, but when I find it was a bit of a struggle for me, I called in some men and so we started it. Then Huffles (Elroy Arthur) got Edmund John (deceased) with a tractor to cut the road and the government had nothing to do with the road.
“There were grape trees up to sea, nowhere to sit down; people were using the bush as a toilet and we came and do what we can to modernize the place and make it look nice, but somebody seem to want to come and hijack the whole thing, which is not fair, not fair on us. Nobody spoke to us about it,” Biddy complained.
Another resident of the area, Cecile Comblen, said poor communication between government and the beach crew is at the heart of the problem.
“People have to communicate. You cannot just come and do something without telling people and also, I am part of the community, I also do a
lot of cleaning of the beach and people need to come together,” said Comblen.
She advocates a collaborative approach and said she did not wish to see concrete structures on the beach, but that more trees should be planted.
Langley Hepburn and Julian John, who also live in the area also expressed disappointment that the group was being sidelined after years of looking after the beach.
Justice of the Peace in the area Brenda Sandy said the beach is the joy of the community and over the years, the group got little help to bring it to the stage it is today. “I believe in my mind if any persons have the privilege to help us develop the beach, then the occupants who occupy this for over 30 years must be given first priority to manage and it would be so unfair…,” the JP said.
She added that it takes a community to make something like this run properly and the group has taken the beach far.
“We want the beach boys to run it and I say so with an angry voice, because I have to talk about it else, I would be a hypocrite. The beach boys must be given first preference to take care of the beach. Do the facilities and give them the preference to take care of the beach,” Sandy asserted.
Arthur said that the project that is being planned appears to be forcing them to abandon the beach, but it is hard for them to do so after working there for so many years.
“We will like to talk to the representative of the area,” said Arthur.
Camillo Gonsalves, the parliamentary representative for the area told SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday that Brighton Salt Pond is becoming an increasingly important destination for tourists, in particular cruise passengers.
“Unfortunately, the facilities are inadequate to accommodate the influx. Tourists and other visitors have to relieve themselves in the bushes, and have complained about issues related to aesthetics and sanitation,” Gonsalves said.
The area representative, who is also the minister of finance said a sum of $160,000 will be spent to upgrade the facilities at Brighton, which on completion will include a reception area, washrooms, vending kiosk, fire pits, security facilities and gazebos.
“To do the work, there will be a temporary displacement of the entrepreneurs who operate there. We will consult with all the residents and entrepreneurs in the vicinity over the course of the construction activity to ensure that the facility is properly used and brings benefits not only to tourists, but to local residents and entrepreneurs. We believe that this facility, in addition to scheduled road works slated for 2019 to Brighton salt pond, will enhance employment and economic activity in the area,” the area representative said, adding that government is working hard to minimize displacement.