Minister Heredia breaks ground for the construction of the San Pedro Sunset Boardwalk Project

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Despite the disapproval of many local long-time fishermen, ground was broken for the San Pedro Sunset Boardwalk and Water Taxi Terminal which will see the remodeling of the El Embarcadero Area and Saca Chispas field. The event took place on the morning of Thursday June 21st. On hand to unveil the project and preside over the ground-breaking ceremony was the Area Representative and Minister of Tourism and Culture Manuel Heredia Jr., Mayor of San Pedro Daniel Guerrero, Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Tourism Tracy Panton and representatives from the contracting firm.

According to Christy Mastry, Project Director for Sustainable Tourism Program, the $5.69 million project is expected to be completed in a span of 16 months and will include three components. “Upon completion it will see the Fisherman’s Promenade and Sunset Boardwalk, the upgrade of the Saca Chispas Football Field and the water taxi terminal and platform which will be done by phases,” explained Mastry.  In an interview with The San Pedro Sun, Mastry explained that actual work is expected to start within the next 20 to 30 days and the first phase of the project is the land reclamation, starting with the area in front of the Saca Chispas field.

The San Pedro Sunset Board Walk and Water Taxi Terminal project includes approximately 800 feet of waterfront development to be constructed along the 66 feet of public frontage stretching from its intersection with Caribeña Street southwards towards Buccaneer Street. Nurse Shark Street will also be upgraded, and there will be replacements and standardization of sheds to provide ambient and visual “order” to the shoreline along with the provision of shaded fish cleaning stands for traditional users. In addition it will also see the reclamation and rehabilitation of the football field with open air seating, public restrooms, and taxi stands that will allow for special events such as cultural and festive activities. The project will also see the completion of a new International Water Taxi Terminal on the Lagoon that will include ticket booths, vending structures, waiting area as well as provision for customs and immigration to conduct inspections among other components.

Speaking at the event Mayor Guerrero explained that he is very grateful that after years of being in the pipeline, the project is finally coming to fruition. “I hope that upon [its] completion in the near future that we will all benefit from this project. I am absolutely confident that it will greatly impact in a positive manner the economy of the island and the country,” said Mayor Guerrero.

The San Pedro Sunset Boardwalk and Water Taxi Terminal came under fire by local fishermen, tour operators and residents in the area since November of 2009 when planning and consultation started.  Residents opposed the project on the basis that the El Embarcadero Area is the only place on the island that paints a true picture of how the island used to be when it was a fishing village. They also feared being displaced from a location that has been passed down from one generation to the next, to give way for the grandiose project. In defending the project, Minister Heredia maintained that El Embarcadero Area gives a bad aspect to the tourism dependent island and the project will help in improving the image of the entire island.

According to Minister Heredia, because tourism contributes 25% percent of the country’s GDP, it is very important for tourism dependent areas to approach development with an open mind and to readjust to the demands of tourism. “We must approach our economic development, especially within this industry, in a very focus and deliberate manner. We must respond to the realities of the industry, keeping in tune with the market realities…This is a project that embraces our fishing heritage and the maritime functions of the back lagoon and yet reflects the essence of modern day San Pedro. The project will dramatically improve the aesthetic look of the lagoon frontage,” said Heredia.

Following the short ceremony Minister Heredia along with CEO Panton symbolically signed the contract for the construction of the project after which ground was broken and the physical layout was unveiled.

The San Pedro Sunset Boardwalk and Water Taxi Terminal is one of four projects under the Sustainable Tourism Project finance under a $15 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank. The project will be executed by RJB Construction Firm based in Belize City and is expected to be completed by October of 2013.

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