Natural Resources Minister, Vincent Wheatley has ordered the National Parks Trust (NPT) to immediately reverse its decision to give cruise shippers exclusive access to The Baths on Virgin Gorda at special hours of the day.
Less than 24 hours before today’s return of cruise ships to the territory, NPT issued an announcement that The Baths will be closed to residents and non-cruise ship guests between 9 am and 2 pm on days when the ships are in the port.
The Parks Trust said the decision was made to comply with local COVID
-19 protocols. But Wheatley, who is the Representative of the Ninth District where The Baths is located, said NPT did not consult either him, his ministry, or the government before making this “unfortunate” decision.
“All beaches are public to anyone for any matter,” said Wheatley in an interview with ZBVI this morning.
“That’s the government’s position from long before the cruise ships even intended to come here. It was always our position. Even in the COVID
, we are not closing the beaches off to any cruise ship. They are free to come and enjoy all the beaches they want but we are not closing the beach and make it exclusive only to the cruise ships.”
Wheatley further said NPT’s unilateral decision on this matter sends a conflicting message to the government’s policy.
He added: “When I saw that flyer I was distraught by it and I (INAUDIBLE) called and said it needs to be corrected and removed immediately. I was very adamant about that.”
“It is very, very unfortunate that happened, especially in a time like now when we’re trying to get ourselves back on our feet and welcome guests back to our shores.”
He said he expects the Parks Trust to issue a press release retracting its decision shortly.
Dr Cassander Titley-O’Neal is the Director of NPT. Below is her explanation and statement of retraction on the matter.