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Mon, Aug 21, 2006 - Page 11 News List

Park, EPA want to open private beach to the public

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Shih Chin-fang, director of the Kenting National Park Headquarters.

PHOTO: KUO FANG-CHI, TAIPEI TIMES

Beaches belong to everyone. But what if a contract inked eight years ago draws a line in the sand, making a beach privately owned by a hotel? In 1998, the Forestry Bureau under the Council of Agriculture commissioned Chateau Beach Resort Kenting to operate a government-owned hotel situated just off Dawan Beach (大灣) for a 48-year period.

The 2km beach has been made accessible only to Chateau's guests. Although most parts of the beach are well-managed -- much different from the chaos seen at nearby Nanwan Beach (南灣) -- many have complained about the lack of public access to Dawan Beach.

Now, however, the situation may be changing in favor of the public because the Environmental Protection Administration and Kenting National Park Headquarters are demanding that Chateau open up the beach.

"We don't think it's appropriate to place hotel operation in front of public interests. The beach is part of the public's assets," said Shih Chin-fang (施錦芳), director of the park's headquarters.

Deserted

She said that because part of Chateau's beach has been deserted and it is owned by several government agencies and private owners, it should be collectively managed to generate the maximum benefit.

As to whether the Forestry Bureau has a different point of view, Shih said she would continue to negotiate with the bureau while keeping in mind the content of the contract signed with Chateau.

Currently, Chateau only allows the public to enter one section of the beach near its Kenting Chantilly Beach Resort (夏堤邑) and charges an access fee of NT$100 (US$3) per adult. It is mulling whether to apply the fee to other parts of the beach.

Shih said she was not happy about the proposal.

"We respect the `users pay' concept, but the proposed fee is too high. The price should be lowered to only cover cleaning expenses and tourists' insurance," she said.

The national park headquarters has budgeted NT$17 million to plant trees and construct public facilities, including parking lots, toilets and showers to prepare for the opening up of the beach by the end of next year, she added.

Facility on hold

An operating license for Chateau's third hotel, also on Dawan Beach and originally scheduled to start operations this summer, has been put on hold by the national park headquarters until satisfactory solutions are worked out between the two sides.

"Of course we want to obtain the license as soon as possible, but we must be responsible to our room guests" in negotiations with the government, said Sharon Tu (都雪琳), assistant manager of marketing and planning for Chateau.

Wu Chang-yang (巫昌陽), associate professor of recreation, sports and health promotion at National Pingtung University of Science and Technology, suggested that state assets should be shared and enjoyed by everyone, but the contract must be honored -- even if it is flawed -- before any changes can be made.

"Now the best solution would be for the Forestry Bureau to review and amend the contract within the legal framework," he said.

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