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I support the wonderful walkway that has been built from Port Elizabeth to Princess Margaret Beach. But when it was under discussion I really did not think it would have had that much effect on the water taxi trade. For that I am eating humble pie, lots of it. Then I was thinking that the passengers would be free agents making their own decisions. I realised how wrong I was when a big cruise ship visited the other day and suddenly the Bequia walkway was full of people surging along with such purpose they might have been the Israelites following Moses to the Promised Land; one was even in a wheelchair, I almost followed to see how they made out on the steps.
It was obvious they did not discover the walkway on their own — they had been primed and pushed in this direction by the dastardly cruise ship companies who never like passengers to spend money ashore unless it is on tours they have already sold and profited from. They feel any dollars in a passengers pocket is rightfully theirs one way or another, and should not fall into the hands of locals, at least until they have taken the largest cut. It is good these gravitationally challenged passengers walk. It may be a longer walk than many of them have taken in years, but why should such good exercise be free? In fact what good are cruise ship passengers to the community unless they spend a dollar or two? I feel this way about us yachties too, but we do spend. I know. I am one of them.
A lot of work and fundraising went into the walkway and it will need maintaining. Especially with all those people clunking up and down the steps. My proposal is that on high usage days (i.e cruise ship days), a EC$5 per person fee should be levied for everyone except Vincentians and residents entering the walkway from Plantation House. (They can return for free). This means that the collection will only take a few hours and will provide temporary employment for the person to sell the tickets and take the money. It will also mean the passengers will make a more balanced decision about whether to walk or take a land or water taxi, as freeness will not enter into the equation. As soon as we do this, the cruise ships may want to run their own boats to the beach. But surely this can be discouraged, Princess Margaret Beach is completely lacking in the fine wire fence that is keeping them safe at the town dock. For security reasons I think it could be disallowed.
I like the idea so much I will happily volunteer to be the first to pay the fee to walk over. It is a lovely walkway and at EC$5 it is bargain. What do you think?
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