Lands Dept’s Decision and (Hopefully) a Change of Focus

Land Dept's Decision Hopkins Belize

As Cheryl mentioned yesterday, we received a call from the Commissioner of Lands on Monday night. He said that Hopkins Bay has been issued a court order to remove the groin, at their own expense, within 5 days. (He then talked about the specifics of the license and the order, but some of that was unclear, though we’ll clarify it if necessary.) I thanked him for the quick government intervention, which I think was very impressive (though certainly was due to help from the mainstream and social media).

I also mentioned to him that this experience has taught us that things happening on one area of the shoreline can have drastic effects on other areas, and asked him how we should address this type of issue in the future. He began to tell me to bring it to Lands, then realized that wouldn’t be too effective, and asked me to invite the Chairman to set up a committee to take note of any projects or concerns (present or future) in the area which might have an impact on the village. This committee will liaise with whomever he chooses at the Dept of Lands, so that we can take a strategic look at everything happening in the area. Currently, projects are applied for, and approved, in a willy-nilly fashion. I’m hopeful that this committee will be able to at least ensure that any concerns are being addressed and that proper procedure is being followed.

As for Hopkins Bay, they have the clout to fight this decision, but I really believe that the decision makers will choose to do the right thing and remove the groin completely. They have two wonderful new managers there who are seeking to hit the reset button and integrate with the community, and this is their chance! I don’t think that stretch of beach is worth being the “bad guys” of Hopkins forever, and risking a permanent black eye with the community and on social media for it. The Chairman has offered to partner with them in getting an expert to see how everyone’s beach (including theirs) can be preserved or restored without damaging anyone else’s. I think that fighting this order would be a no-win scenario for them, while they have a chance to become the heroes of the story by removing it and really teaming up with the community. So we will see very soon, but I believe they will do the right thing.

Assuming that happens, I believe it is time for us to shift our focus onto what specific steps we can take to restore our beach. To that end, I’ve emailed three beach restoration companies who contacted us, asking for advice. We also have an expert who will be here on vacation next week, who is kindly willing to come and trade some advice for rum. ? Even more promisingly, we’ve had offers from Maya Beach Hotel and Cocoplum to come and learn what they’ve done in similar situations. I will take them up on that offer shortly.

Once we have some knowledge, Coconut Row will have to do something immediately – even if it’s temporary, as we cannot ask guests to endure the beach situation we currently have. But hopefully, whatever we learn will be applicable at the village level, and that’s what we’re really looking for. If the village solution requires significant funding, we will need volunteers to help us look into the possibilities of government funding, NGO funding, individual fundraising, and even crowdsourcing (this is exactly the right type of project for that.) Anyone willing to help, please let us know. But we will carefully weigh our options (and costs) before setting out to raise any sort of money.

There is one thing that we can do immediately though. There are roughly a dozen coconut trees leaning into the water that will eventually fall if they are not supported, and the root system has shown itself to be absolutely invaluable in slowing erosion. We had good luck getting a length of rope, hauling the tree straight with a 4WD, and tying the tree to another to hold it upright. If anyone is willing to solicit some donations of rope, and/or someone with a vehicle or tractor to haul the trees, that would be a very valuable contribution. We (at Coconut Row) would be happy to help if someone is willing to take the lead with this.

I’ll be sure to keep posting with anything we learn, and I hope everyone else does the same. I’m very proud of the community for the way it pulled together during this event, and I hope that it continues!