Well I don’t know, are the residents of Can Picafort complaining too much? At least they don’t have to queue for several hours to get on the beach. There’s a goodly amount of beach in Can Pic - a fair stretch of it. Plenty of room. So you would think.
This is a beach very different to a small one at a cove in Santanyi which is en vogue this summer (it’ll no doubt be another one next year). Yet for all the very obvious differences, the two beaches have something in common - overcrowding. But then the overcrowding is itself different. It isn’t people who are so much the problem in Can Pic as all the furniture that’s on the beach - the sunlounger sets.
The row that erupted last week, in case you missed it, had to do with beachgoers (of the non-sunlounger-using variety) being told that they couldn’t put their towels down between the sunlounger sets. Covid regulations, and all that. This expanded into a more general complaint about excessive numbers of sunloungers, while a beachgoer who had a “confrontation” with someone from the concession company filed a denuncia with Santa Margalida police.
Reading between the lines, it would seem that the situation had been brewing and that it finally came to a head last Sunday. Following a post on social media, people from elsewhere on the island made similar complaints about sunloungers, excessive occupation of the beach and the Covid rules.
While the social distancing requirement has played a part in this row, the principle is nothing new. I can, for instance, take you back fourteen summers and to when Can Picafort and Playa de Muro beachgoers were making precisely the same complaints about sunlounger excess. “Public space” was being denied, and there were allegations flying around about concession holders happily paying occasional fines for exceeding the permitted number but not being ordered to remove this excess.
This same denial in 2021 has led to charges of beach “privatisation” by the concession holders. There was also, one felt, a spot of have-a-go-at-a-tourist in one banner that appeared and which read “Treat the Mallorcans with manners and respect”; the assumption being that only tourists use sunloungers.
More recently than 2007, the opposition at Santa Margalida town hall expressed its concerns about the number of sunloungers three summers ago. One of the complaints made by the Suma group was that there was barely any room to walk past them, as the front row was so close to the water’s edge. The same point has been reiterated apropos the latest rumpus.
I have to say that in the past I have had the impression in both Can Picafort and parts of Playa de Muro that there are a lot of sunloungers and that “free” space can be limited. Covid will have compounded this. But then, this can be pretty good business, not least for the town halls, who rake in the payments from the companies, albeit that the Costas Authority is the one that approves the specifications for beach services, while it also extracts its own charge from town halls for the privilege of there being these services.
Four years ago, David Abril was still a very prominent member of Més. He announced that his party was seeking to remove sunloungers (and chiringuito bars) from all beaches. Nothing ever came of this, and I doubt that anything will ever come of it in the future. But Més were making sunloungers political, and because it was Més, there was the hint that this was all about tourism and tourist “saturation”. I detect a similar hint in Can Picafort.