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Residents to offer Shelly Bay alternative

Family support: Belinda Gibbons signs the petition at Shelly Bay Beach yesterday with granddaughter, Riley Evans (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

An alternative proposal for Shelly Bay will be unveiled today in the best interests of residents and visitors alike, a campaigner against the Bermuda Tourism Authority’s plans for the beach said yesterday.

Esme Williams said: “It will be the only thing like this in Bermuda and everyone will gravitate to it.”

She was speaking after signs appeared around the Hamilton Parish beach to ask for signatures against the BTA development plan for the beach.

Ms Williams said more than 1,000 people had already signed the petition.

She said the alternative plan, which will be unveiled at the Hamilton headquarters of the Bermuda Industrial Union at 1pm, was drawn up by area resident Cheryl-Ann Griffin.

Ms Williams said she attended a meeting in June at which the BTA’s Beach Economy Vision plan for five beaches, including Shelly Bay, was outlined.

The plan for Shelly Bay involves the use of shipping containers to house temporary concessions.

Ms Williams said that any concessions brought to the beach had to be “supported”.

She explained that Bermudians brought their own food, water and other provisions to the beach.

Ms Williams added: “So in order to support a concession, you have to bring the tourists there. When you bring the tourists there, that means you’re going to bus them there.

“You’re going to have the umbrellas, chairs and an obstruction to the parents who would normally see their children.”

Ms Williams said Shelly Bay had been a beach for families for decades.

She said that the BTA’s plan appeared to be a “commercialisation of the beach”.

She added: “We say have your beach vision, we applaud you, but leave Shelly Bay Beach out of it.”

Ms Williams said that she and others welcomed visitors to the beach.

She added: “Sometimes tourists don’t want the tourist traps. They want just peace and quiet.”

Ms Williams said that she was also not opposed to entrepreneurs at Shelly Bay.

She explained: “We just do not want it on the beach.”

The BTA, in partnership with the Ministry of Public Works and Ministry of Economic Development and Tourism, will set up a temporary concession area at Shelly Bay between 6pm and 8pm on Thursday 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.

The BTA said Mr Caisey was among a “list of entrepreneurs” interested in running events at the beach to encourage visitors during slow periods.

Jamahl Simmons, the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism, said community feedback had helped shape the plan for Shelly Bay.

Mr Simmons said: “In just one example, the public insisted no alcohol be sold at Shelly Bay. That stance was embraced and the plan adjusted to fit the values and desires of the wider community.”

Glenn Jones, director of strategy and corporate communications at the BTA, said Thursday’s event would give area residents a first-hand look at what is proposed.

Mr Jones added: “All partners in this project are committed to local buy-in and are working towards an end product that has the community’s support.”