Kiddel Bay Access Blocked


Well folks, it looks like we all just lost access to another great snorkel and dive spot.

We heard rumblings a few weeks ago about Kiddel Bay and that access to it had been blocked off. Apparently a property owner out there no longer wants people to access the beach, specifically commercial business operators like dive groups, etc.

So I know many of you might be thinking, well the beaches are public, right? Well yes and no. This is my understanding: The Open Shorelines Act says that the shorelines in the USVI are defined as being the area from the low tide line inland for 50 feet or to the first line of natural vegetation. The Act allows the public to use this area. It also prohibits landowners from blocking access to these areas. It does not, however, grant the public the right to cross private property in order to access that defined public area. We don’t know all of the details, but that seems to be the case here.

We’re going to do some more digging on this, and we’ll keep you all posted. In the meantime, if anyone has additional information, please feel free to chime in.

kiddel map


28 thoughts on “Kiddel Bay Access Blocked”

  1. Kiddle WAS a great locals beach. One of the few places you could get away from the tourist crowd. Last time we went, there were at least 7 rental cars and about 20 people on the beach so we left. That much traffic is hard on roads. Particularly roads that need to be maintained by the land owner.

  2. If the dive groups and other business were not paying to use the property owners road, park on their land, or left trash or were obnoxious. I would do the same.

  3. If a dive group wants to dive off this beach, then get to it by a boat. Unless you love government oversight of private property you must respect the rights and will of the owner.

  4. Seems like all of the “secret” paths and roads aren’t secret anymore. But what do you expect when the glut of ugly condos in Cruz Bay and other construction around the island kicks out the locals and lures crowds of tourists way beyond what this pretty island can handle? Having visited for the last 30 years, I’ve seen many changes–often not for the better–in the pursuit of money.

    • Al,

      I totally agree with you. I’ve been traveling to St. John since 1990.

      It is really sad to see what greed has done to this once beautiful paradise.

  5. Does anyone know for sure whether that road, which is listed as Mandal Estate Rd., is, in fact, a private road? There are quite a few houses back there. It’s not like you’re driving past one person’s house.

    • Mandahl Estate road is indeed an “estate” road where land owners in the neighborhood have to pay for maintenance and upkeep of the road. Suppose they could even block it at the entrance along the main road if it came to that.

      The two routes to Kiddle Bay literally drive through the front yard of multiple residences. Traffic through the area has increased significantly over the past few years.

  6. Theoretically, the Open Shorelines Act allows you to walk all the way around the Island below the vegetation/high tide mark. If the access road IS a legitimately mapped, legally sufficient, public Estate Road with complete access to the water . . . maybe. The Open Shorelines Act is misinterpreted on a daily basis. You don’t get to traipse across someone else’s property to get to the beach. When the hotels are developed, there tends to be an agreement permitting public access through the hotel property as part of the permitting, but they don’t necessarily have to provide for “free parking” or make it easy for the interloping public. Still, they cannot prevent beach access from seaward – unless they’re claiming “beach ownership”, renting lawn chairs and have a few thugs around to drive you off, then the better part of valor is always to depart.

  7. Well said Coral Bay Denizen – – we own a villa that is directly on a beach and some people think it’s okay to drive into my driveway, park their car and use my private stairway that goes past the house to the beach.

  8. Over the last 5 years we have stayed at LaSirena or Lil’ Paridise right above Kiddel Bay. Many times we used the path behind Lil’ Paradise to access the beach but lazy as we are occasionally we have driven down there. While there are obviously many wonderful beaches on this tiny island this one is my family’s favorite. I hope the acces from the adjacent villas is not restricted.

    Excerpt of a ruling by Judge Christian concerning the erection of a fence blocking the entrance to Bolongo Bay on St. Thomas…

    “Shoreline of the Virgin Islands” are defined to be those areas, along the coastlines of the Virgin Islands from the seaward line of low tide, running inland a distance of fifty (50) feet; or to the extreme seaward boundary of natural vegetation which spreads continuously inland; or to a natural barrier; whichever is the shortest distance. “

    “And under section 403, the Act commands that,
    No person, firm, corporation, association or other legal entity shall create, erect, maintain, or obstruct any obstruction, barrier, or restraint of any nature whatsoever upon, across, or within the shorelines of the Virgin Islands as defined in this section, which would interfere with the right of the public individually and collectively, to use and enjoy any shoreline.”

    Traditional Access

    Concerning the defendant’s property rights:

    “…whatever defendant’s property right in and to Bolongo Bay Beach, they have always been subject to the paramount right of the public to use the said beach as established by firmly, well settled, long standing custom. Insofar as this beachfront property is concerned, the Open Shorelines Act does no more than merely codify this confirmed right.2 And if further proof were needed, plaintiffs’ unopposed affidavits abundantly support their position that Bolongo Bay Beach was used by the public on a regular and continuing basis for swimming and recreation, without permission from, or need of permission of the upland owners, at least from 1923…”

    (As this Court had occasion to note in Red Hook Marina, supra. 9 V.I. at p. 43, (n. 19), public use of the beach generally dates back to the period when these islands were under Danish dominium.)

    (The general custom of using the beaches as if they were public has been affirmed by our own Legislature: The shorelines of the Virgin Islands have in the past been used freely by all residents and visitors alike. . . . The Legislature recognizes that the public has made frequent, uninterrupted and unobstructed use of the shorelines of the Virgin Islands throughout Danish rule and under American rule as recently as the nineteen fifties. It is the intent of the Legislature to preserve what has been a tradition and to protect what has become a right of the public.)

    • Nice post, Gerald. While I understand the argument that others have put forth about the costs of maintaining the road, I believe everyone should be able to access both Kiddel and Grootpan. Keep the chain up to prevent cars if you have to, but at least let folks walk/hike in.

      • How ’bout if we troop through your yard to get to the water? It’s somewhere on the other side of your home no matter where you live. How far do you extend that (apparently) God given “right”? Gerald’s post is misleading. Judge Christian may have gotten it right in that specific case, under the facts before him. (And, it shouldnt be a surprise, depending on WHO was arguing). Fortunately, under the law, we’d have to sue for the right to troop through your yard to get to the water. You have certain rights in the quiet enjoyment of your property. But you don’t own below the high water mark, or the most seaward vegetation, whichever is greater.

        • I’ve been to both Kiddel and Grootpan many times. Both of these areas are accessible via roads that are in good shape. No one is talking about trooping through anyone’s yard. We’re talking about two places where you can drive down a well-established road (albeit private), park in an area designed to accommodate vehicles, and then walk out onto the beach. The properties that sit right next to the road were most likely purchased with the road in existence.

          Not to get snarky, but while we’re talking about the area, if the property owners want to truly protect the beaches, they should remove all the old, rusty vehicles that line the road, which are leaking petrochemicals and other heavy metals onto the ground and which inevitably end up washing into the ocean.

          • That is not acceptable, I’d get a dog. No bites, just bark. And whoever left those old rusty cars there should be the ones to dispose of them properly but never will. Get some people together and just do it.

    • Case specific. There are others where access across someone else’s property was denied by the same court. See what I meant by “. . . The Open Shorelines Act is misinterpreted on a daily basis” ?

  10. The US Supreme Court decided in 2010 that private land owners had to provide access to the public portion of a beach. This has been a constant principle of law since the US Bulkhead act (one of the first laws passed under the articles of confederation, and reaffirmed by it’s adoption at the time of the North West Ordinances, under the constitution. And there is no relief from this principle under the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 or it’s subsequent amendments. Here is the Supreme Court decision:


    • From seaward, not through your home or private property willy-nilly and without some reservation of prescriptive or adverse possessory right. Try crossing someone’s multi million dollar lawn in Rhode Island, MA, Malibu, West Palm or Maine to get out on the Bay. It’s been tried in the V.I. and failed in other cases, and fails regularly in the lower State Courts. Misinterpreting.

  11. We own property is a very popular fishing area and have a similar public access issue (how to balance being generous vs. cost/frustration of allowing access).

    There are many property owners that allowed access for years, sometimes generations who have changed their minds over the past 10 years and more and more no trespassing signs are going up each year.

    It is unbelievable how the public can abuse the privilege. For every respectful visitor, there are many more who behave very badly, ruining it for everyone. The direct cost (repairs/excess liability insurance/trash removal) and indirect (emotional) is just too much sometimes.

    • Looks like a lot of the properties along Mandel Estate Rd are owned by the US Gov or Nat’l Park Service including many down near Kiddel Bay and Grootpan Bay

  12. I talked to one of the owners today. He said that there was dog poop all over the beach and someone had left a dirty diaper under a rock. He and his cousin are fed up with traffic going down there. If you want to use the beach, feel free to walk to the beach. No more cars are going to able to drive there. By the way, it is for sale.

  13. I’m sure it’s the result of illegal bon fires using pallets from which nails were left behind. The persons’ responsible denied having used them even when they were seen carrying them in their vehicle.

  14. We were there the day in March 2016, when the landowner was putting up the driveway chain. He mentioned the trash (including baby diapers) and frustrations with the money-making visitors (paddle board companies etc.). We offered to clean up and he said, “No, you and your family go and enjoy the beach. I got no problem with you swimming.” People don’t know how to take care of special places. Laziness rules.
    So it’s for sale. Wonder how welcoming the billionaire that buys the property will be?
    I noticed another web link, promoting continued use of the beach, by parking up on the road and walking down. Wonder how long this strategy will work?

  15. Just wrapping up our annual vacation to St.John and while we’ve only been coming here for eight years, Kiddle has always been one of our favorites to snorkel. We were her last February 2016 and there were no chains. When we showed up Sunday of this week to chains we were saddened, but parked a bit up the road behind a cairn and walked down. No hassles, respected the place as we would any wonder of nature, and left all smiles. Please respect this great spot as I’d hate for those who love it to not have access to it.

Leave a Comment