Winnifred Beach in Portland Stays Public!
GREAT NEWS! For those of you who've been following the lengthy legal battle over beautiful Winnifred Beach in Portland, Jamaica, to keep it out of the hands of developers and maintain it as a public beach, it looks like justice has finally prevailed!! Please read the Jamaica Observer article below for details about the Court's decision this week.
Winnifred Beach is an authentic Jamaican public beach located on the northeast coast, just east of Port Antonio, on Fairy Hill Bay in the Fairy Hill District. (Some people call it Fairy Hill Beach.) The beach was originally part of the Winnifred Rest Home Properties, where there was a guest house for travelers from the 1950s to the late 1980s. The property was donated to the people of Fairy Hill for their use. However, taxes failed to be paid at some point, and the property was taken over by a Jamaican Government agency, the Urban Development Corporation (UDC).
Local residents and tourists alike have enjoyed this pretty beach for decades, for cooking, eating, swimming and chilling out. Winnifred is one of my favorite spots to swim in Portland because the water is calm, clean, sandy-bottomed, extremely clear (as you can see from my photos), and there are plenty of places to enjoy shade if you want (or need!) it. There is also a public changing room and toilet. Frankly, this is by far the best place to swim in Portland.
For the last 7 or 8 years, the UDC has been trying to privatize Winnifred Beach so that the land can be developed with homes, cottages and "recreational facilities." Of course, that translates to fences and a ticket office. Locals who set up cookshops on the beach, fish, sell jewelry,etc., would be ejected in favor of developers. Of course, the government stopped also maintaining the beach facilities, probably to convince the public that a takeover was necessary.
Sadly, most of the best beaches in Jamaica have already been sold off to big hotel chains and are off-limits to local residents. I understand that money talks, but it's a sin that Jamaicans can't enjoy the very beaches that make their home an island paradise.
To get to Winnifred, there is a narrow, unmarked "road" down to the beach about halfway between the Blue Lagoon and Boston Bay, just opposite the Jamaica Crest Resort. You can't see the beach from the main road, and you won't easily find the road down to the beach either. Ask a local to point you to the road. It's bumpy and uneven, so you may prefer to take a taxi or leave your car at the top and walk down, but you can drive it without a 4WD vehicle if you take your time.
Except for weekends, you may find the beach nearly deserted. Residents and volunteers in the area take care of Winnifred without being paid but, although there's no charge to access the beach, you may be asked to contribute toward its upkeep. Your Portland hotel or guest house may pack you a picnic lunch if you plan to spend the day, but you'll usually find tasty food being cooked on the beach.
A coral reef offshore provides for good snorkeling and protects the bay from waves. You'll enjoy crystal clear water and some marine life. Absorb the vibrant community here, particularly on Sundays, get something delicious to eat, and kick back to enjoy the natural beauty. On weekends, there may be people offering horseback rides down the beach or boat trips to Monkey Island.
I hope the successful outcome of this lawsuit encourages other community organizations to fight to keep their beaches open to the public. In my opinion, tourists don't need any more private beach space, or Jamaica's soon going to look like one gigantic walled compound. Keep Winnifred free!
Court orders public access to Winnifred Beach
Friday, November 28, 2014
THE Urban Development Corporation (UDC) has been ordered by the court to grant public access to Winnifred Beach in Portland, ending a five-year legal battle between the residents and the entity.
The ruling, which was handed down in the Port Antonio Resident Magistrate's Court in the parish last month by Resident Magistrate Marjorie Moyston, said UDC has 90 days to create a new title an easement for the right of the public to access the beach for bathing and recreation purposes.
Four members of the Free Winnifred Beach Benevolent Society took the matter to court five years ago, seeking a declaration of the public's absolute and indefeasible right to access the beach.
Continue reading at Court orders public access to Winnifred Beach - News - JamaicaObserver.com.