On June 7, 2020 beaches across Jamaica re-opened to the public after a period of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Patrons and beach managers alike were excited to return to Jamaican beaches as it is one of the few places that a variety of activities can be done safely, at a distance. Beach re-opening protocol allowed the opening of beaches and rivers between the hours of 6:00 am and 6:00 pm, limiting groups to ten people in one section of the beach for the purpose of sunbathing only.
Source: Tampa Bay Times (tampabay.com)
In May, we conducted community site visits to the Better Beaches for Jamaican (BBFJ) partner beaches and noticed that all beaches island-wide were closed to sunbathing, events and other commercial activities. We observed empty beaches, and received reports of increased wildlife such as more fish close to shore and birds on the beaches. The JET team caught up with community beach partners from Duncans Bay Beach in Trelawny, Winnifred Beach in Portland, and Peach Beach in St. Ann to find out what their experience has been like since beach re-opening in June.
During the beach closure, our Duncans Bay Community Beach partners observed an increase in out-of-town visitors to the beach, which is usually frequently by community members. This increase was thought to be due to the closure of other commercial public beaches along the coast. Since beaches have re-opened, less people are visiting the beach overall than before the pandemic. This may be due to the downturn in the economy and reduced disposable income.
Duncans Beach, Trelawny
It seems visitors could not wait to get back to the warm sand and beautiful seaside, based on reports from the beach managers of Winnifred Beach in Portland. Since re-opening, weekends are just as busy as they were earlier in the year, prior to the outbreak. Beach goers are also happy to implement safety protocol outlined by the Government of Jamaica.
Winnifred Beach, Portland
While there have been reports of crowded beaches and rivers in June and July, at Peach Beach in St. Ann, people have been seen wearing their masks on the beach while maintaining their social distance from other small groups occupying the beach. There have been no issues with crowding. Small signs could be seen at the beach, informing visitors of the new protocol.
Peach Beach, St. Ann
The re-opening experience for these three beaches have been positive, however many beaches and rivers are over-crowded on weekends, prompting the Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Desmond McKenzie, to warn beach and river management and visitors alike, that if protocol is not observed stricter control measures would be put in place.
As we retreat to the beach during this Emancipendence period, let us remember to enjoy the beach but stay safe!