Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Can we at Least Get Along Long Enough to Share a Beach for Crying out Loud?

Being kicked off a section of beach that has been deemed private brought back a bittersweet memory of a moment I will never forget one evening on a beach in the Caribbean. The practice of reserving beach space for certain people and segregating others from accessing it is common practice in many regions of the world. The owners of ritzy resorts put up fences to keep out the people they consider “undesirable” – poor locals that they deem troublemakers and are best kept out of view of rich tourists that frequent their fancy, gated resorts. I didn’t stay in one of those fancy resorts; I opted for a small boutique hotel that allowed access to a beach that belonged to a fancier place. I was appalled by what I saw when I first went to that beach. On one side were the rich tourists; on the other side were the local people – the ones who lived in that town and had more right to that beach than anyone else. The next night, in protest, I went to the beach where the locals were. Unlike the rich tourists who would kick up a very loud stink if one of the locals crossed onto their turf, not one of those “undesirables” asked me leave. Instead, they smiled as I walked by them, they stopped me to ask where I was from, the children showed me the fish they had caught from a nearby dock, the parents invited me to sit with them around their fire. They never complained about anything while the people on the other side of the fence were frowning, cranky and complained about everything from the temperature of their drinks to the color of their beach chair. Most of them were too busy complaining and dressed too fancy in their high heels and designer gowns to even enjoy the beach and the spectacular sunset that evening. The lesson? Many of the people I have met in my life who had next to nothing were the happiest and were always open to meeting people from ALL walks of life while many of the people who had everything were miserable and complained about EVERYTHING and judged people for having less than them to the point of requesting such “undesirables” not be allowed on their beach. This makes me wonder with all the hate going on in this world – will we ever come to a resolution where we can all love and respect one another if we can’t even get along on a beach and share it equally?

As for the beach I was kicked off? I have been going to that beach since I was a child. There are two ways that I know of to get to that beach; one public access road where rowdy young people congregate and one at the end of the road past the Inverness Beach Resort area. I often travel alone and feel safer at the end near the resort and never had a problem until this day when a very rude and condescending woman, who I assume was the manager or owner of the resort, approached my car, saw that I was a young woman traveling alone and still told me to leave. I was very offended by this. Not because she was rude but because I had been a customer of her business a number of times in the past and she treated me like a common criminal instead of a potential paying customer. Also, the fact that she was a woman and should understand the unique problems that can arise when a woman travels alone, she should have understood my desire to park somewhere where I felt safe. I suspect she reserves the privilege of enjoying that section of beach to rich tourists…forgetting that it is the local people who keep coming back year after the year and we are the ones who, in the end, keep this business and other ones on the island in business. And that is something that does not go over well with me.
As for what I am going to do about this incident? Well for one, I know I won’t be able to go to that beach anymore unless the restrictions on that section of beach are lifted. The public area is too rowdy and crowded and I often do not feel safe there. This is unfortunate as Inverness Beach is one of my favorite long, sandy beaches in Cape Breton. I also know that there are laws pertaining to beach access in Nova Scotia and I’m pretty sure that no one is allowed to deny the public access to any beach in the province whether it falls on private property or not. Beaches are public domain and are for everyone’s enjoyment. I will be researching this information further and if it is discovered to be correct, I will be approaching the owner of that resort to discuss this. I understand that they may have had problems with rowdy guests in the past but it is wrong to paint everyone with that same brush. It was very obvious and plain to see that I was not there to cause any trouble. I simple wanted to lay on the beach and enjoy my day off in total relaxation away from screaming kids and rowdy teenagers. Is that too much to ask?

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