Safe. That was the word used by beachgoers to describe the newly opened boardwalk at Williams Bay, Chaguaramas. Safety was what the majority of people at the boardwalk last weekend—mostly families and couples—said mattered most to them. The facility was opened just over a month ago in a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and the minister responsible for the development of Trinidad’s Western Peninsula, Dr Bhoe Tewarie. It’s the first phase of a project to attract tourists and investment into the area. The boardwalk, with trees strategically placed, is bordered on one side by a grassy slope—ideal for a romantic picnic—and on the other by the seashore. It has dramatically improved the look and feel of the area.
At the eastern end there is a portable toilet; according to a sign at the western end of the boardwalk near the Chaguanas Development Authority (CDA) office, visitors can pay $2 to use indoor facilities. Signs along the boardwalk caution: “No sitting on the handrails. No Camping. No Cooking or open fires. No Loud Music. No Climbing of Trees.” I could easily identify not only the physical improvements but also the atmosphere. It is friendlier, cleaner, more picturesque and yes, safe. “The area feels safer,” said 38-year-old Nekesha Mentor who was spending the day at the beach with her two daughters. “I immediately noticed the security guards as I parked the car. There are areas where the children can play in the sand, or run about as they wish and it’s really a lot more attractive. It looks like a place tourists would enjoy.”
The majority of people enjoying the facility the day I visited were families. Parents with their two daughters played with plastic inflatable toys near the water’s edge. A man sat with his laptop enjoying free Internet access as a little girl at his feet played with brightly coloured plastic buckets and shovels. A short distance away, a mother gathered pebbles and seashells with her daughter. With the approach of sunset, more visitors arrived, including young couples. A young woman held hands with her boyfriend as they strolled along the boardwalk. A photographer followed a middle-aged couple, snapping photos with the water providing the perfect background. “I’ve been to the boardwalk in New York, and minus the rides and other forms of entertainment, this isn’t a far cry from it. It’s relaxing to just sit on the deck and let your feet touch the water,” said Shalini Mohammed. Mohammed and her husband Rishi drove from Carapichaima to visit the boardwalk after learning about it from a news programme.
Wicome John, a CDA litter prevention and security officer, said in the weeks since the boardwalk opened there have been large crowds. “This is only a handful of people. There are evenings when people come to rollerblade, or couples come to picnic here,” he said. “I love it here,” said 72-year-old Lily Rahaman. Since the boardwalk was opened she has exercised there five times a week.
“I think it is a wonderful idea. I like to see all of the young couples strolling along. It’s so pleasant. “My husband sits and waits because he can’t walk, but he loves the sea breeze,” Rahaman said. Four of the six vendors’ booths at the boardwalk were opened when I visited, selling fried foods, gyros, snacks and snocones. Vendor Sabitha Sutherland said business has been slow except for on weekends. “I don’t feel 100 per cent safe—but compared to before, it is a lot safer,” she said.