Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Toco racing to ghetto status


Mark Fraser

Toco beach is one of the few naturally rustic places left where one can go to find quiet, and to enjoy our islandness. But it is an increasingly neglected beach, beginning with the road to get there.

I find the route from Valencia to Toco has become an obstacle course. There are sections of that road where there are more than two feet of surface variation.

You look back 50 feet to smooth road, then there you are, the entire vehicle is in a hole. Basically you are in the third world.

In one particular spot, road work has been in progress on and off, mostly off, for the last three years, indeed, since the tenure of Jack Warner as works minister.

There are places on the road where the margin for error before one topples over into the sea is miniscule. The bridges, such as they are, are becoming increasingly precarious.

The Toco road is basically an abandoned road. When you get past the secondary school, there is still the edge of the precipice to negotiate.

On the final drive to the beach, the bush is taller than the vehicle. Rustic is rustic, but neglect is neglect. Did no one notice this degradation on the drive up there on the holiday for Keshorn?

Once you get to the beach, people have to find artful ways to dress and undress. But it remains a popular beach, that attracts bus excursions. There are times when the crowd can seem to be overwhelming. But then there are mornings when one can go there, and there is quiet, only the incessant lashing of the waves.

But trouble is coming on the Toco beach. It might have arrived.

First there are the large areas of beach where people have established claims with tents that stand there year round. You will have to be brave to venture there.

Now at the very entrance to the beach construction of structures is apace. To get to the beach one must run this gauntlet of shacks, that people have become emboldened to build, sensing that this is a new frontier of squatting opportunity, over which there is no jurisdiction.

The Toco beach is fast becoming the new train line. I counted at least ten permanent-looking structures on a very recent trip there, some with provision for a garage to house a maxi.

The Toco beach is fast becoming a ghetto, and soon will be a forboding place for citizens and their families to spend time. This one idyllic beach will become increasingly more menacing, its unpatrolled status making it a haven for people running from the law.

Meanwhile, as you enter the Immigration Section of the airport at Piarco, you see this wonderful poster showing beautiful and pristine Maracas, with its white sands and manicured beaches, and its civilised and enticing environs, where one is encouraged to partake of bake and shark, and doubles, and where no doubt, the tourist can relax, and where toilet facilities are available. And, of course, where it would be futile to walk in with galvanise and two-by fours and cement, to construct an illegal structure in plain site. Maracas, of course, is a dedicated tourist attraction.

Or one could go to Carenage and to Chaguaramus, to see the new Ministry of Tourism projects, with ministers sliding on ropes, and with boardwalks and so on. Clearly there are winners and losers in the hierarchy of what is considered touristy. And Toco is by its treatment a clear loser.

A word to the wise should be enough. The Toco beach is becoming a ghetto. This is of the order of an oil spill. It means that soon you go there at your own risk. People will be living there on the beach. You would be at great risk at night. Latrines will spring up all around.

Where is the Ministry of Tourism? Is Toco not worth preserving as an oasis, in this country of increasing desertification?

Theodore Lewis,

Professor Emeritus,

University of Minnesota

via e-mail