One more beach in Ios becomes privatised

One more beach in Ios becomes privatised – illegally, of course Valmas is a beautiful beach in Ios, at the southern entrance of the harbour. Access to the beach was easy until last year. Visitors could walk or drive to the beach using the dirt road that starts next to the heliport. Road signs from Chora and the heliport point to the beach.

Unfortunately, the situation has changed drastically a month ago. The owner of the plot inside which the road lies has closed the access gate. The beach is thus not accessible by car or motorbike. The owner of the plot has also disallowed access to visitors who walk on the dirt road, using as pretext that he is carrying building works that may result in visitors getting injured. He has told visitors to access the beach via a path in an adjacent plot, which is poorly maintained and dangerous, or via the path that starts at Saint Irene, which requires a half-hour walk.

The closure of Valmas beach seems to have been planned well in advance. The magazine IOS 2023 Guide to Heaven, which informs visitors about all the beaches on the island, does not include Valmas, while it included Valmas in all its previous editions. The dirt road has been removed from other tourist magazines on the island.

As a result of the above-mentioned actions, fewer and fewer people are visiting Valmas. There is a real risk that people will gradually forget about that beach.

The situation bears alarming similarities with Papas beach, where the hotel Calilo, owned and operated by Mr Michalopoulos’ companies, lies. Papas beach can be accessed from the road to Kalamos via a path that is not well maintained, at least during past years. The paved road to the beach has a gate, which seems to open only for the hotel’s customers or those who are willing to pay for the sunbeds (which are very expensive). Papas beach is no longer in IOS 2023 Guide to Heaven, but was there in earlier years. Papas beach can be accessed by foot from a dirt road that starts at Treis Klissies (and that has been built illegally by the above-mentioned companies on the old path, which has been destroyed).

Accessing the beach via that dirt road, however, requires a one-hour walk (which members of our association did last summer
We should note that last summer Mr Michalopoulos bought the restaurant on Valmas beach where the dirt road ends. Thus, the closure of the dirt road at Valmas may not have been a coincidence.

Our association wrote a letter to the Municipality of Ios a few months ago asking for information about any actions that the Municipality may have undertaken to ensure free access to Papas beach. The Municipality answered that due to financial limitations, it could not clean and maintain the path to the beach. We expect that something similar holds for Valmas. We hope that the Municipality of Ios stops being a passive observer of the closure of beaches in the island by private individuals. It is obvious that as the number of accessible beaches declines, the island becomes less attractive to tourists, and its image suffers.

The closure of beaches, by the above-mentioned or other methods, is illegal. The Prosecutor of the Supreme Court issued a circular on 4 May 2023 titled “The easy access to beaches is a conditio sine qua non for this summer.”  The circular mentions among other things that “free access to beaches and the seaside must always be guaranteed”. Preventing access to beaches is illegal and deprives the public from goods that belong to them.

The closure of beaches in Mykonos attracted much publicity recently. The beaches reopened to the public due in large part to actions taken by the Appeals Prosecutor of the Aegean, Mr Tsorbatzoglou. We hope that during his upcoming visit to Ios, the prosecutor pays particular attention to the illegal closure of the island’s beaches!

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