Many people who follow this blog will have seen it by now: A video of three people who trespassed on private property on North Caicos, using the swimming pool until they discovered the security camera.
Even though two of the people can clearly be identified as Whitby property owners, not tourists, the pool owners are declining to confront the trespassers. This is both gallant and ironic, given that the offending couple were among the first on North to post a “Private Property” sign on their deck and don’t hesitate to chase others away, even those using the PUBLIC beach in front of their property. (Apparently, they also think they own the ocean there; we were once asked not too anchor our boat in front of their place.)
So maybe it’s time to review a few things about property and living on the island.
First and foremost, no individual owns the beach anywhere. Beaches are public property. And if you have land “on” the beach, you actually own the land just up to the normal high-water mark, no further.
To get to that public beach, there are designated beach access roads. Don’t know where they are? Find out. Tourists, I know, seldom know any of this, and will sometimes tromp right over private land to get to the beach. Often it’s no biggie, but it can be a problem if, say, tour guides (who should know better) say, “Oh, just go over there.” In my perfect TCI world, beach access roads would be marked as such, but I’m in no position to tell the government what to do.
For a long time, most homeowners were pretty casual about “protecting” their private property. I’ve stood on other people’s porches when caught in the rain on a beach walk and haven’t minded our yard being a shortcut between Point A and Point B. Lovey has not minded his neighbors using the picnic tables and hammocks at his place. It was all … well, neighborly.
More recently, though, there has been abuse of that laid-back attitude, from both tourists and residents. People leave trash. They drag porch furniture out to the beach, then leave it there to be swept away. They use toilet facilities in restaurants where they purchase nothing. And now, apparently, they’re helping themselves to things that others have worked hard to place or purchase.
This all makes me so sad. I don’t want to see a North Caicos bristling with fences and “No Trespassing” signs and gates. Nor do I want to see local businesses and homeowners being taken advantage of.
Is it too idealistic to ask for courtesy and respect, and to ask anyone dealing with visitors to pass on the expectation of those virtues? Is it?