By Staff Writer
From West Bay to Jackson Point might measure seven miles as the crow flies…or as the boat sails across the bay. Just don’t tell that to Seven Miles Beach.
Seven miles it isn’t, and as far as the alluring stretch of award-winning beach goes, seven miles it never was.
Even the tourism brochures in their eye-catching promotions alternate between 5.5 and 6.3 miles of unparalleled tropical bliss.
But take warning. We are at serious risk of further depleting - if not destroying - this piece of paradise.
It will be a sad price to pay, the consequence of an almost unrestricted rush to development at the sacrifice of the environment - our greatest asset.
At the rate we are going, we’ll soon not be able to count many footsteps in the sands of our already (less than)Seven Mile Beach.
So how did we get here and where do we go from here?
Seven Mile Beach is somewhat of a misnomer as the strip as we know it was never seven uninterrupted miles of pristine beach.
Historically the area has been part ironshore, small coves and inlets but with the stretch of beach the main feature.
Ideal for beachfront development, we learnt that over the years a process of ‘who came first got the best beach spots’ as can be seen from the parade of properties and their built timeline along the shoreline.
Previous ironshore areas have even been incorporated into development projects for the high-value claim of seafront vistas - if not necessarily direct beach access. After all, the beach might have only been a matter of a few minutes walk away.
It has now reached the point where property owners, business owners and developers hardly have any alternative but to resort to further manmade incursions onto the beach and into the sea to protect their investment.
But over time, sheer over-development driven by high demand coupled with the natural ebb and flow of the tides has resulted in Cayman’s most highly-prized possession being put at serious risk.
One factor is climate change which could be a game-changer for low-lying Cayman.
But while we may be on the frontline of threats, that actually presents us with the opportunity to be in the front seat of solutions.
We accept that it’s a delicate balance between development and the environment, however, the evidence clearly shows where we need to prioritise and ‘invest’ our policies.
Numerous studies, reports and recommendations point this out.
One of them, a 2011 report by the Cayman Islands National Climate Change Committee, clearly warned: “Pressure from coastal development, economic dependence of the tourism industry on Seven Mile Beach, rapid population growth and insurability issues for development place additional pressures on the coastal environment.”
The clock is ticking ominously.
Is it time for a moratorium on any further beachside development along Seven Mile Beach?
Is it time to call time while there’s just enough time and scope for corrective action?