Catastrophic Beach Erosion in Hopkins!

Catastrophic beach erosion in Hopkins Belize

The beaches of Hopkins were some of the nicest on the mainland until a week ago. Everyone in Hopkins is used to the ebb and flow of our beaches, at least to some extent. But our beaches were always gorgeous; it was our major selling point!

Coconut Row Grounds

Coconut Row Grounds & Beach

But beginning a week ago, we began having erosion that was unprecedented in living memory; some areas have lost about twelve feet in the last few days!

Here at Coconut Row, we had a fence 8-10 feet from the water’s edge. Half of that fence collapsed about six days ago, leaving the other half standing.

Two days ago, the rest of it collapsed…

Along with some coconut trees and the rest of our beach…

In a panic, we (the Hopkins Chairman and I) called the Dept of the Environment, who said they stood ready to help us, but that the lead would have to be taken by the Dept of Lands. So we called the Dept of Lands, who told us to send a report. When we insisted that we had no time for that, they asked us to send pictures and they’d get back to us. But the erosion was worsening hourly, and most of our guests left early, or cancelled when they arrived and saw the beach. So we called the BTB (Belize Tourism Board) for assistance in getting someone out to survey the damage. I’m happy to say that the BTB was very helpful, and two people from the Dept. Of the Environment arrived Friday afternoon.

The position of the people from the Dept. Of Environment is that the major cause of the damage is a groyne built by Hopkins Bay. This groyne has been quite controversial already, as it is widely attributed as the reason properties on the north (such as Kismet Inn, North Beach Bar, etc.) have lost so much beach over the last few months. But until now, it hadn’t hit the main area of the village. So I went and took pictures of the groyn, and I was pretty astounded! Hopkins Bay’s beach used to be at the treeline. Look at the ENORMOUS beach they’ve acquired as a result of the groyne (which is a long pile of small rocks sticking out into the water.) In pacing it, I calculate that they’ve extended their beach at least 50 feet out into the sea, along a very long area!

The sand generally comes to the village from the lagoon, which is just north of Hopkins Bay, and flows south to the village. So this groyne, account to Environment, is intercepting all of the sand destined for the village! Now, I’m all in favor of businesses doing whatever they can to improve their beach or their property, but not at the blatant expense of everyone else! Compare these pictures to the pics of about a mile and a half of the village, taken a few days ago (it’s worse now.)

(Please note that the part of sand you see in the water is not the original beach line – the beach extended further than that!)

Now, here is the difficult part. The Dept. Of Environment says they will recommend immediately that the groyne be removed – but they can’t enforce it! Only the Lands Department can order the groyne taken down. And they advised me that, because of politics, it might be difficult, and that without major political intervention, it will probably take long. Hopkins is being destroyed right now; we cannot wait!

As for Coconut Row, we’ve decided to do what we can to stop the bleeding right now. We bought some reaping bags and a pile of sand & gravel, as well as some rope. We are building boxes around the root systems of endangered palm trees and filling the boxes with sand, then hauling the trees straight and tying them upright. Hopefully we can save the trees – if those root systems disappear, the erosion will speed up exponentially! (Thanks to Hadas and Tom at Turneffe Island Resort for the idea.)

We’re filling sandbags and placing them in a line along the property about four feet offshore, hoping that, as the waves hit the shore, the material will be prevented from leaving by the sandbags. But we could really use some technical expertise, so if anyone knows how to engineer a beach recovery, please call us at 670-3000!