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Consultation Meeting Ends in Chaos

A meeting turns sour after fishermen object and complain about the new changes projected to the Old Football Field and Lagoon Area in downtown San Pedro that were presented to them at a consultation meeting on Friday, January 14, 2011.

A preliminary consultation for the Old Football Field (Saca Chispas) Sunset Boardwalk and Water Taxi Terminal was held on Monday, November 9, 2010. At the meeting, the project’s overview was presented to have a waterfront development on the lagoon front to create a new destination within San Pedro Town which will consolidate water travel to serve local and international traffic, provide new opportunities for leisure and commerce, build public-private partnerships for commercial and cultural growth, promote waterfront beautification, and further the overall enhancement of Ambergris Caye as a tourist destination, resulting in an increase in overnight tourist visitation.

It was a meeting filled with mixed emotions as some thought the idea of beautifying the area, having a sports complex which is so desperately needed, as well as the parking facility are great ideas. But making major changes in the area for the fishermen was not easily acceptable to everyone in attendance.

After the project was modified since the first consultation and the fishermen having some time to weigh the options of the project, it seems that they have unanimously decided that they do not approve of the project.

These modifications were presented to at least 30 families of fishermen who are stakeholders in the lagoon area where the project is intended to drastically change the appearance and operation of their businesses at a meeting held on Friday, January 14, 2011.  The second consultation was chaotic, to say the least. The fishermen, who had held meetings among themselves prior, are now more than convinced that they do not like the changes proposed to them.

The dialogue between the fishermen and representatives of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) turned sour as both groups strongly stood their grounds. The IDB proposes to go ahead with this $6Mil project with changes to accommodate the stakeholders’ needs, but the fishermen who use the area do not want the changes or entire project at all.

Stakeholders (Fishermen) Concerns:
*Alterations to the Lagoon Area ecosystem that will affect the tarpon breeding grounds and delicate mangroves
*Alterations to the fishermen’s existing docks which will rob them of their private docks and business
*The docks have been an ancestral part for all of the fishermen who use the area and don’t want to lose the little that they have.
*San Pedro will lose another little part of the island charm that is left from years past.
*Tourist are drawn to this lagoon-side as it is, wanting to learn more about San Pedro’s past.
*Residents do not want San Pedro to change its environment to a Cancun-like one.
*The new water taxi terminal proposed in the area will cause more congestion in the already narrow canal and heavy trafficked area that leads into the back lagoon.

The Inter-American Development Bank is offering loans to the Government of Belize to make improvements in the Tourism Sector around the country. This money cannot be used in other areas around the island like on the streets, Poly Clinic or sewage system, as proposed by those who attended the meeting. These areas are of higher importance for the island, but the $6Mil has to be used directly for the improvements in the tourism sector.

The consultation meeting was set up to determine whether residents of San Pedro approve or disapprove of the $6Mil project to enhance the Old Football Field. Results from the meeting will heavily influence the IDB’s decision on moving forward with it. With the island’s stakeholders heavily disapproving the project, it is expected for the IDB will scrap the new improvements but we have yet to know what is their next move and decisions. The island is at risk of losing this money, but the fishermen hope that an agreement can be made to use this money elsewhere on the island and not for drastically changing the environment they have been using for years.

Related Article: First Consultation Meeting

Map of projectConsultation meetingResidents post protest signs along lagoon area to be affectedResidents post protest signs along lagoon area to be affectedResidents post protest signs along lagoon area to be affected

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