Safety First

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Catching Sprats To Hunt Bigger Game

So, yesterday was one of those perfect summer days I remember growing up as a kid in Road View that always came along after a day of rain like we had the day before. As the tide was low I grabbed my point-and-shoot digital camera and headed for the beach at what we used to call "Lower Road View" - now called St. Peter's Bay Villas - to see what was new that I could find. It is important to note that I did it at low tide since, thanks to the groynes, it is no longer possible to cross from Upper to Lower Road View and/or vice versa along the beach at any other time without taking a sea bath.

While I was taking pictures of the infamous groynes and the construction in progress along the shore I noticed a fisherman with a fishing net obviously looking for sprats. I was immediately drawn to the fisherman for a couple of reasons: (1) he was fishing in the vicinity of the groynes and (2) you don't see too many people fishing with nets these days. He climbed along one of the groynes and cast off his net and caught a few sprats which undoubtedly he later used as bait to catch bigger fish to sell or eat.

Reflecting on the incident later in the day I began to see that it was pregnant with metaphorical truths and meaning for our larger struggle with the groynes. I remembered a story my late dad used to tell about Barbados National Hero - the late Sir Grantley Adams - and the struggle that ended with all of the beaches of Barbados being made public up to the highwatermark. Adams as a lawyer and a politician represented the fishermen who were complaining about beach access (after all they walked along the shore looking for sprats) back then as some palatial homes were beginning to sprout along the west coast in the '40s and '50s and measures were being taken by their owners to block blacks from getting near these residences.

One such residence in Road View was "Camelot" (now home to the Cobblers Cove Hotel). The owner and builder was a very powerful and wealthy white east coast planter and politician - Jos (Josh) Haynes. He built a barbed wire fence around his property in The Cholera that reached to the edge of the water effectively barring fishermen and all others from using the beach in front of Camelot. The fishermen complained to Adams and he came up with the idea of using the fishing net as a tool in the battle for beach access. He urged them to cast the nets at sprats, real or imagined, in the vicinity of the barbed wire in such a way that they were caught on the fence and torn. Adams then used the fact that the fence was interfering with the livelihood of the fisherman - torn nets - in the law courts and in parliament to help bring about Barbados's landmark legislation on beach access.

It is unbelievable to me that 60 - 70 years on we are having to fight for beach access all over again in Road View because of barriers someone(s) erected on the water's edge again. We are in a situation where "we can't get there from here" because of the groynes and the beach erosion they have exacerbated in the area. Whether it was intentional or not, we can no longer freely walk the beaches of Road View because of the damage wrought by the groynes. Beaches are either too eroded, too rocky or too under-water for free movement in the area along them.

The other issue is that the groynes have begun to impact the livelihoods of area residents and property owners in many ways. Beach cottage rental owners are seeing cancellations because guests (even repeat customers) are concerned about the state of the beach and are vacationing elsewhere. Even the top luxury property in the area which caters to celebrity clientele is very concerned about word spreading about the state of the beach and has already lost significant income - not to mention the huge sums expended on property repair as a result of recent damage directly attributable to the groynes.

Consequently, as of yesterday I have a new understanding of what we are doing in the Save Mullins Bay effort. We (I and others who support the cause in any way) are the fishermen. The sprats are the little victories we win each day helping to bring others to consciousness and activism over the groynes which represent the barriers placed by an unholy but yet very powerful and wealthy alliance of private and public interests. At each casting of our nets (our tweets, blog posts, comments and other things we do and share aimed at removal of the groynes) become ensnarled and sometimes torn on the barriers, but ultimately, I now more firmly believe these entanglements will lead to our one day bringing home the big kahuna - the removal of the infamous groynes from the beach in Lower Road View.

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1 comment:

  1. Wonderful bit of history. Keep up the fight!