Tensions are running high in Boscobel, St. Andrew as residents complain that they are fed up with the fact that public access to the beach at Foster Funland is restricted.
The issue surrounds the erection of a chained fence at the entrance of the road which prevents vehicular traffic, and is the only access point to the beach. So frustrated are these people that social activist and educator Alwyn Babb is now appealing to the powers that be to step in and assist the residents to rectify the matter expeditiously as it continues to fester and negatively impact the livelihoods of the fishermen in the village.
When a Barbados TODAY team visited the community a group of residents were vocal and adamant that the blockade was illegal and must be removed. They said that for well over 40 years Boscobel and surrounding communities had unhindered vehicular and pedestrian access to the beach through this easement. So much so, that the area was once a popular picnic spot, with bathroom facilities. Now people can only gain access to the beach by walking well over two miles of hilly terrain. As a result, fisherfolk can only carry equipment like ice coolers to store the day’s catch of, for example, Barracuda, Cavalli, Mackerel and lobsters, based on the amount of weight an individual can bear for what a Barbados TODAY team, which undertook the trek today, timed at a total 50 minutes both ways.
“Imagine, you only have a pen and notebook and you struggling. What about us. This is a small team today but sometimes we have 18 men, you got to walk a mile down to walk back up when we have to pull our coolers up the hills, when we carrying our nets down and when we catch fish. The other day a buddy of mine caught a 50lb baby shark and he had to struggle from down in there with it on foot. Sometimes it is too difficult to bring along coolers so we have to make this journey three, four times a day to catch and carry the fish to put on ice then to come back again and do the same thing so the fish don’t go off. This chain should be moved so we can drive down we cars, instead of walking with a load all the time,” fisherman Sheridan Goddard lamented.
The vexing matter of access began a number of years ago when the eco-tour business Adventureland Tours Inc. operated a few feet away from where the chained fence is and the barricade was constructed.
Ryan Williams, who is also a fisherman and whose father worked for the business, said that at the time when he enquired about the chain, he was told that it was done to prevent persons from venturing onto the property to steal the go-karts. Noting this was an understandable explanation, he insisted that they still had full access and the chain was only enforced at night.
“We could have understand that because when you come and lock up at 7 o’clock nobody ain’t going down to the sea at that kind of time. But when you see now pun a morning the old man [David Foster] used to get up and unlock the chain so that when they come they could get the buggies easy because big bright morning nobody gine try to carry way nothing.
When the old man was living we would come and say ‘Fos, we ready to go down’ and he would say come for the key. We would unlock the chain and go straight down and it would be unlocked for anyone until the nighttime,” fisherman Goddard interjected.
However, the business was closed some six years ago but the chain remained. That was when the disgruntled residents removed it and continued to access the beach as they had for decades before. Williams said that they had no issues again until about three years ago when the barricade returned but this time was accompanied by signage that read: “Private property. Authorised persons only. Trespassers will be prosecuted- by order of the Foster Family”.
Goddard recounted that residents then called the Royal Barbados Police Force to handle the matter and while a number, including gazette officers, turned up, “they quickly moved and went long back, they ain’t touch the chain,” he added.
Now the matter is once more coming to a head because the group said that their efficiency to fish, which is central to the sustenance of their families, especially given the financial challenges amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, was being severely hampered by the blockade.
Babb, who was told about the issue while carrying out his monthly water project in the area, decided to walk the same path to the beach that residents take so he could truly understand their plight and was flabbergasted.
“Walking two miles is another challenge with hills. Imagine walking two miles with 40 or 50 pounds if you catch them in both directions with your equipment. I walked that this distance to see how it felt. The hills are a challenge if you are coming in the early morning and you are finishing about 11, the heat on the road is quite a challenge and I had to take a couple of minutes of rest so I can make it back to the top. And I’m a person who does a lot of training as well so I understand what the stresses and challenges are for the ordinary person who has to do it two- or three-times a [day]. This matter deserves urgent attention,” Babb stressed.
Also stressing the need for the barricade to be removed, Williams raised safety concerns for the fisherfolk as well as the number of other residents, children included, that visit the beach.
“Common sense, it is a beach children gine go to it and bathe during the vacation and what not. The younger ones don’t go no more because it is difficult in case something happen to somebody down there, to get down there or even to get them back up here. The youngsters in them 20s still go down there and risk a thing. This gentleman [Goddard] he does dive lobsters, times changing, he down there diving and God forbid it, a little shark bite he tendon or bite he on he arm. He down there bleeding out, we can’t lift he up. It is over a mile walk and even if the ambulance does have to come it still can’t get past the chain. This is totally ridiculous,” Williams stated.
Barbados TODAY’s investigations to locate the land owner were unsuccessful. (KC)