There are a few things I’ve learned about my style while writing this column over the years. When it comes to hot button issues, I have two main approaches. On the one hand I like to do some digging, talk to some folk, come to a conclusion and share. Sometimes, a lot of the time, according to some people, I like to just point out how I feel in my gut about something.
That’s how I feel about this whole Magens Bay thing. I know there is more to it than I’ve read and heard so far, but I’ve learned enough to say something just don’t feel right.
Like most of y’all, Magens Bay has been my neighborhood beach. My son took toddler swimming lessons there. I’ve attended many birthdays, family reunions, weddings, naming ceremonies, engagements, play dates, camps — you name it — held there.
I’ve gone there to just chill for a day at the beach with my family, and I’ve taken friends there who were visiting me on vacation. Like most of you, I feel blessed to live five minutes from one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world.
That’s what is most special about Magens Bay. In so many other places in the world, shoot even on our own islands, the most beautiful places are off-limits to the majority of the people. Only the rich, famous, privileged and connected get to enjoy the best of what Mother Nature has birthed for us all. So, the fact that anyone can just walk right into the clear, calm waters of Magens Bay and enjoy it is a blessing. Even the small fees we pay to gain access to her are worth it if it helps keep her healthy.
Which is why it just don’t sit right with me. Call it whatever you want. Justify it however you please. All I see is the fallacy of manifest destiny emerging for another century. It just don’t feel right. If I’m understanding this whole thing right, corporations want to cordon off pieces of public land for their personal use by their paying customers and deny citizens the right to use or access said land and water. And if I’m further understanding this right, they want to erect their own separate facilities for dining, personal comfort and needs and lounging that also cannot be used or accessed by anyone else including local taxpaying citizens.
I get it. It’s an attempt to protect both parties from potentially transmitting a very contagious virus that we still know so little about. It’s an attempt to allow for one of our biggest economic contributors — tourists — to continue to come without causing alarming outbreaks that can come from little to no regulations on visitors. I get what it’s trying to do. It just don’t feel right.
Where does it end? If one tour company does it, why not another? If it’s done at one beach, why not another? Why take a piece of beach? Why not a whole beach just for tourists? Or why not a few designated local beaches and leave the rest for visitors to choose from as they please? How far out into the water does it extend? What will mark the boundaries? Who gets to decide?
What are the consequences? If a visitor leaves their area, what happens? If a local goes into a visitor area what happens? What if the visitor is with a local? Who can go where? Who does the enforcing? Who gets to decide? The questions still pile up. Why was this brought to the public eye like it was some casual conversation between friends at a cocktail party? This is a serious matter that can have major ripple effects in our communities on all of our islands. It has the potential to change the way the traveling public views our island.
That is why I appreciate the work of Senator Sarauw in her questioning of the Magens Bay Authority. Some may say she asks the hard questions, but I say she asks the illuminating questions. We the people have a stake and an interest in the beaches, the land, the sea, the mountains, all of it. We should not only know what is going on but have an opportunity to provide input.
This issue of special zones is an issue of health and culture. How long before these bubbles expand? How long before the focus becomes keeping the bubble safer than the community? How long before resources get diverted to protect the patrons of the bubble over the community? When does the money garnered by the bubble outweigh the comfort, well-being and rights of the community? How long before it goes from being a matter of safety to a matter of privilege? How long before it goes from something we offer at a price to something we have to provide in order to participate?
In these times we must be smart about protecting the safety of our visitors. At all times, however, we must be mindful of the well-being of our local community. To do otherwise just doesn’t feel right. Not at all.
— Mariel Blake is a Daily News columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.