Seven mile beach. Cayman Compass

Cayman Islands - Erosion stripping Seven Mile Beach

The southern end of the world-famous Seven Mile Beach was once a pristine stretch on Cayman’s biggest tourism attraction, but now much of the beloved beach in that section has disappeared.

Trees lie exposed along the coastline after the sea reclaimed the beach on the southern end of Seven Mile. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

Repeated assaults from storm surges, the most recent following the passage of Hurricane Idalia which skirted Cayman, have reclaimed the prime beach, leaving gaping spaces where white sand used to be.

The Compass recently observed the length of the beach using a drone camera to get the most up-to-date images of the impacts of the storm and ongoing erosion. It showed that some areas along the southern stretch have suffered a total loss of beach, and in at least one section, a near-5-feet-high ledge of sand has been created by the bombardment of the waves.

The beach loss has been causing physical and financial distress to properties, like the Marriott, Laguna del Mar and South Bay Beach Club, which have been hardest hit by the erosion.

Though not a new issue, the situation has been exacerbated by intense surges and an apparently slow government response.

“The erosion is impacting our bookings for the property as prospective guests want to know if there will be a beach when they arrive for their winter vacation,” Maggie Mendes, manager of South Bay Beach Club, told the Cayman Compass via email.

She said, as far as she knows, there has been no damage assessment after the recent surges.

“Property owners are very concerned about the continuing beach loss and what it may cause to property values,” she said, adding that government has not allocated any funds to assist with replacing sand.

“I have submitted an application to renourish our upper beach which is private; this application was made last October, and I am still waiting for a response from the planning department. [T]his project is being paid for by the owners of South Bay,” Mendes added.

Swimmers now wade waist deep where sunbathers once lay on sand in front of properties on the southern end of the beach, while those seeking a leisurely walk along the coastline either have to go into the sea to continue their trek or turn back.

Other property owners in the area, including the Marriott resort, have made previous applications to restore or protect what little beach remains.

The hotel, which no longer advertises beachfront, is in the process of a major renovation.

Beach unlikely to return

Department of Environment Deputy Director Tim Austin, in a 7 Sept. comment to the Compass on the situation, said the DoE completed a drone analysis of the entire Seven Mile Beach.

While a detailed assessment of the extent of beach movement is still under way, he said “immediate observations and site visits confirm that the southern portion of the beach was once again the most heavily impacted”.

The southern section of Seven Mile Beach, from the Sovereign to Crescent Point condominiums, had already experienced a “catastrophic loss of sand reserves that have shown very little signs of recovery of the past year”, he said.

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