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Central Park Torn Down! Island Residents Express Outrage

Last week Thursday, residents of San Pedro woke up to what they have expressed to be a horrific site – the demolition of Central Park. Only three weeks away from municipal elections, the San Pedro Town Council decided to go along with phase three of Central Park renovations, a $2 million plan which they presented three years ago to the business community.

The bold and challenging, but beautiful concept of the re-modeling of San Pedro’s Central Park was presented to the island’s business community on September 24, 2003 by Mayor Elsa Paz and Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr., Belize Rural South Area Representative. At the time Area Representative Manuel Heredia Jr., made it clear that consultation with the public was important for his office and that of the Town Council’s and that they would welcome opinions and suggestions in regards to the re-modeling of Central Park.

Central ParkApparently, not much consultation with the general public took place as a large portion of the community expressed their outrage and dissatisfaction with the Mayor’s decision to tear down a historical landmark for the town of San Pedro. The general consensus seems to be that residents are not upset about the fact that Central Park is being remodeled, but because the most historical part of the park is being torn down. Residents expected this section of the park to remain intact with renovation work done around it.

Park PlanSo when residents saw the concrete slab being broken up and the grounds being dug up, they were angered by the Town Council’s decision. Mayor Paz did not expect this negative reaction from her fellow residents. Those who were hurt the most were the older generation of local Sanpedranos who explained to Ambergris Today all the years of hard work that went into building Central Park.

Belize Rural South Area Representative, Manuel Heredia told CTV-3 News that the new park is being remodeled to suit the modern times and catering to the tourism industry. Mayor Paz stressed that the Town Council is not destroying the park, but remodeling it into something more beautiful for all to enjoy.

Phase 1 (remodeling of Friendship Park) and Phase 2 (information center, brick section and children’s games donated by Captain Morgan’s Retreat) have been completed and according to Mayor Paz, Phase 3, which is being funded by Atlantic Bank, will include the resurfacing of the park with bricks, a fountain in the middle, smaller palapas and a removable stage.

Other plans presented for Central Park area include the removal of all cargo barges to the back part of the island at the site of the industrial pier (also known as marina), the establishment of a water taxi terminal at the site of municipal dock, the re-location of the food vendors from the park, the erection of palapas in front of the park, and a wider, aesthetically pleasing view of the Caribbean Sea from the park. The proposed changes also include plans to close a segment of Barrier Reef Drive to vehicular traffic.

Letter from upset Resident “Dear Editors,

I find it astonishing that the Town Council is using public money to rip up Central Park right in the middle of tourist season during a period when our roads have never been in a worst condition than they are now. This is abuse of taxpayers money in the extreme.

It is time that local politicians of both parties realize that when we elect them we are entrusting them with our money to carry out the most basic services in a proper manner.

The state of the roads for the past month has been a huge embarrassment for our island, not to mention a back-breaking health hazard. I can imagine the battering that taxi drivers and their vehicles are taking even though they pay more money to license their vans here on the island than anywhere else in Belize.

My vote on March 1st goes to the candidates who will promise in writing and back it up with proof that they will pave the roads (and quickly too). We also need a couple of proper garbage trucks. I’m not going to vote for candidates whose priority seems to be erecting monuments to themselves on public lands. That kind of behavior should be left to dictators.

Yours Sincerely, /s/ Chris Allnatt

Photo Caption:
1. Mayor Elsa Paz does some damage control by talking to the media, explaining the Central Park project.
2. Demolition continues.
3. Diagram shows finished concept of park.

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