Residents’ Shelly Bay plan ‘helps disabled’
An alternative to a Bermuda Tourism Authority plan to improve Shelly Bay Beach was unveiled by residents yesterday.
The group said their plan would result in the beach becoming accessible to people with disabilities, rather than having several concessions housed in old shipping containers, as proposed by the BTA.
Cheryl-Ann Griffin, who drew up the proposal, said: “It is our view that Bermuda would benefit from a beach that is accessible to all Bermudians and visitors. We are proposing that the recovered free area once occupied by the demolished building at Shelly Bay Beach is the ideal area to be used to enhance the beach experience for residents and visitors who are physically and visually challenged, including the infirmed elderly population.”
Ms Griffin, who was flanked by other area residents, was speaking at the Bermuda Industrial Union’s headquarters in Hamilton.
The group said they wanted a suitable restroom and would not oppose a lone lunch wagon for beachgoers who wanted amenities.
Ms Griffin added that some residents had “not been able to touch the sea for up to 12 years”, but that her plan included the use of a removable mat specially designed for wheelchair users to reach the sea.
Ms Griffin added: “Other examples of fittings are sensory rails for the visually impaired and the Mobi-Chair floating beach wheelchair.”
Ms Griffin highlighted other beaches accessible to the disabled and infirm, including Wasaga Beach in Ontario and Manly Beach in Australia.
The group came up with the plan after the BTA outlined its “Beach Economy Vision” plan for five beaches, including Shelly Bay, in June.
The plan proposed temporary concessions at Shelly Bay, accommodated in revamped shipping containers, but the residents’ group said any retail outlets at the traditionally quiet beach had to be “supported” by locals.
The BTA unveiled its plan after a survey of thousands of visitors and hundreds of residents.
Ms Griffin said that, although the survey showed 67 per cent of respondents wanted better beach amenities, the poll was not specific enough.
She explained: “Nothing specified Shelly Bay Beach — that beach wasn’t chosen by us in the survey. We don’t want any concessions on the lower beach area. Those containers will take up precious space.”
She added: “There is also a cultural aspect to Shelly Bay Beach as Bermudians traditionally exercise their beach culture by bringing their own food and equipment.”
The group added that a petition against the BTA proposals had already been signed by more than 1,000 people.
Glenn Jones, director of strategy and corporate communication at the BTA, said that while access for people with wheelchairs was always in its plan, it would support further moves to improve accessibility for all beachgoers.
Mr Jones said: “Our architect tells us that the proposal for a Mobi-Mat beach access mat can easily be incorporated into the existing plan. We’ll work with our colleagues at the Ministry of Public Works to see if we can get it done.”
The BTA, in partnership with the Ministry of Public Works and the Ministry of Economic Development and Tourism, will set up a temporary concession area at Shelly Bay between 6pm and 8pm tomorrow night.
Four vendor finalists who submitted proposals to operate at the beach will provide samples of their goods and answer questions.
Sid’s Seafood, owned by Gary Caisey, will also host a fish fry.
Mr Jones said: “Since the beginning of this process over two years ago, we have consulted with the public exhaustively, because we believe having their input makes our beach-vision plan better.
“That’s one of the reasons we’re having a demo night on Thursday. We want the public to experience what’s proposed and then give us their feedback.
“And, as has been the case from the beginning, the feedback will help determine next steps. Our Beach Vision plan that was unveiled in 2016 was guided by which public beaches are already approved for concessions.
“Since Shelly Bay has been approved for concessions for decades and has a brownfield site, it is a natural fit to have improved amenities that are aligned to how visitors and locals already use and enjoy the beach.
Mr Jones added: “Another example that consultation is working is that earlier this summer at a meeting on-site, Mrs Griffin and MP Derrick Burgess recommended an alternate location at Shelly Bay Park for the concession area.
“Their recommendation was relayed to the Ministry of Public Works and officials there are evaluating the feasibility of shifting things to accommodate the concerns of the community.
“I think time and again our process has embraced the ideas of others.”
UPDATE: this article has beem amended to correct the time for the BTA event at Shelly Bay Beach tomorrow as from 6pm to 8pm instead of from 5pm to 7pm.