Folkestone Beach is once again open to the public!

After months of being closed to facilitate work being conducted under the Coastal Risk Assessment and Management Programme (CRMP), the beach located at Holetown, St. James Beach reopened to the public last December.

It has now been transformed into a thing of beauty, featuring two pocket beaches and a concrete walkway.

Gone now are the days of waves pounding the shore making it almost impossible for sea lovers to gain access to the water. Instead, those visiting the popular picnic spot may now walk the stretch from Coral Reef right down to Settlers at Holetown and back without being hindered and relax on one of two small beaches in the area.

General Manager of the National Conservation Commission (NCC), Keith Neblett, said there were serious issues with narrowness at the beach, and people???s ability to gain access to it before work was completed by the Coastal Zone Management Unit.?????There was a time when we had temporary boulders, but they never worked and that created problems with access to the beach,??? he reminisced.

That has all changed with an increase in pedestrian traffic following the construction of the concrete walkway which stretches along the beach, the two pocket beaches and the installation of gyrones in the area. ???There has been a significant increase in the number of people using the beach since it reopened in December. People just could not wait,??? he stated.

Now that the work is completed, Mr. Neblett is anticipating that Folkestone would mirror Hastings Rocks and become a focal point for the north of the island. And, just as there is no riding, vending, skating or pets allowed at Hastings Rocks, similar rules will apply for the concrete walkway at Folkestone.

He stressed that there was a need for information and beach signs to be posted along the boardwalk so visitors, particularly those from overseas, would know their zones.??Presently, between 60 to 80 per cent of those using the beach and concrete walkways, particularly on weekends, are locals who visit the area for exercise daily and as a stress reliever.

And, while the number of lifeguards at the beach will not increase, Mr. Neblett gave the assurance that the beaches will be well manned.??This is important as hotels in the area are reporting a ???fantastic??? season, and an enhanced value of their properties due to the coastal work that was carried out to not only improve the look of the area, but also to increase safety.

Meanwhile, the NCC General Manager said there were also big plans for the popular Holetown, St. James park, that will see a revamping of its interpretative centre to include access for the physically challenged and video presentations. ???Many of these initiatives came from the staff at Folkestone,??? he stated.

He added that there were also working towards having the building fully outfitted by solar energy. ???We have embarked on a project with the Ministry of Energy, where we have identified 11 areas in the NCC to set up alternative energy projects and Folkestone is one,??? Mr. Neblett indicated.

Those plans will see the air conditioning units and the lights in the interpretative centre being operated by solar energy and with the use of LED lights.??Another attraction to the spot will take the form of a restaurant which could be opened to the public as early as May. ???Through that restaurant we are hoping to attract more people. It will also generate revenue from those using its services,??? he said. The interpretative centre is also expected to open its doors to the public by next month.

Changes are also coming to the car park at Folkestone which is earmarked for expansion to increase parking space. ???Our overall goal is to have an area by the restaurant and the interpretative centre to be used as a green space and let the parking be near the entrance close to the road,??? Mr. Neblett noted.

This is important as the popular picnic spot is also growing in popularity for Old Year???s Night and other celebrations, noted Manager of the Folkestone Park and Marine Reserve, John Nicholls.??He added that landscaping work to the area still had to be completed. He further explained that officials from the CZMU would continue to monitor the area for a year, to observe the effectiveness of the intervention methods done under the CRMP.

The five-year CRMP programme, is estimated to cost US$42.2 million, and is funded by the Inter-American Development Bank, in association with the Barbados Government.

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