Monday, April 15, 2024

The $6 million elephant- GOB’s Sunset boardwalk


The $5.6 million Sunset Boardwalk project on Ambergris Caye was inaugurated on March 14th, and after six months the facility executed under the Sustainable Tourism Program (STP) is still not fully functional. The delay has come under criticism since residents have referred to it as the “elephant” on the island. While the individual docks are currently being used by the local fishermen for a monthly fee paid to the municipality, the terminal has not been in full operation. Even the Luis “Cuz” Sylvestre Sporting Arena (Saca Chispas Field) has been criticized, with residents claiming that it transforms into an “Olympic-sized” swimming pool when it rains.Sunset Boardwalk Inauguration-1
According to Mayor of San Pedro Town Daniel Guerrero, the water taxi terminal is currently being used only for the international runs. Guerrero indicated that San Pedro Town Council (SPTC) is working along other interested parties such the Belize Border Management Authority, Belize Port Authority and the Ministry of Tourism to get local water taxi operators to use the facility.Sunset Boardwalk Inauguration-20
Boat operators have indicated that one of the main reasons they are resisting using the terminal is because the water access (lagoon) is shallow, and the rocky water bed could damage their vessels. “I was in a meeting with the local water taxi operators and they are in agreement with wanting to use the terminal. There are some things that need to be fine-tuned, but generally, they are in agreement,” said Mayor Guerrero. He did indicate that water taxis are expected to begin using the facility by October 1st. The two main boat companies will be using the terminal as a single port of embarkation and disembarkation.Saca Chispas Under Water (1 of 3)
Operators of large water taxis have made it a point to register their concern about the lagoon being too shallow for proper access, especially when their larger vessels are filled with passengers. When questioned about the concern of the water taxi operators, Guerrero said that it is something they are looking at. “When it comes to boats with outboard engines, there are no problems. But yes, that is a concern during low tide for the large vessels with inboard engines, because they draw much more water. If we are to apply the ‘no wake zone’ rule, they can make it slowly. The thing is that they like to plane as soon as they leave the dock. However there is a plan to dredge the area so that the larger vessels would be able to access the area without much difficulty,” said Guerrero. The Mayor acknowledged that the water taxi operators also expressed concern about parking their boat in the area at night, an issue which is being discussed.Saca Chispas Under Water (3 of 3)
He also addressed concerns about a rider’s fee that local authorities are working on along with the Government of Belize. That fee is to be imposed once the passenger vessels start using the terminal. “There is a head tax included in the contract with the IDB (Inter-American Development Bank), but that has not been implemented. It will be just like the rider’s fee on the airlines that are currently being charged on the ticket. The project has to pay for itself, and so we will be doing the same thing, implementing a rider’s fee,” explained Guerrero. The amount on the rider’s fee has not been determined but will surely see an overall increase in ticket prices.Saca Chispas Under Water (2 of 3)
As for the criticism about the football field transforming into an “Olympic-sized swimming pool when it rains”, Guerrero said the criticism is plain political. “The only thing I will take there with the criticism of the football field is the water that stays there and forms like a little pond there. When it comes to the buildings I will not agree with any of them. I know that it’s the political air coming in, and of course most of the people criticizing are the PUPs… we have to put more sand into that field. The problem with water on the field can be fixed just by adding sand to that place.”
The entire venture was constructed under the STP Project through a government loan from the IDB. The STP Project has since been closed, and the then project coordinator (Christy Mastry) has moved on to a new government project called Belize Infrastructure Limited.

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