Beach Erosion Put Resorts in Hopkins at Risk
The pristine beaches of Hopkins have always attracted thousands of visitors annually and over the course of a week, its appeal has drastically changed. As a result, the owner of Coconut Row Resort in Hopkins Village is currently looking for someone with technical expertise to rebuild the beach in front of the establishment.
The owner says that the beach started to erode about a week ago at an extremely fast pace. Currently, some areas have lost 12 feet of beach in just the last few days and the coconut trees which was 8-10 feet from the water’s edge has completely collapsed.
According to information posted on the resort’s internet page, the owner along with the Chairman of Hopkins quickly called the Department of the Environment (DOE), the lands department and Belize Tourism Board (BTB) for assistance. Shortly after, BTB and DOE responded and determined that the problem was being caused by 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 have lost so much beach over the last few months. Hopkins’ Bay used to be by the tree line and now it has stretched far beyond that since the groyne is pulling in all the sand from the lagoon that would normally reach areas such as the front of Coconut Row.
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Massive Beach Erosion in Hopkins, Residents and Resorts Affected
Once known for its delicate shoreline, the village of Hopkins in the south is facing chronic coastal erosion. Residents woke up one morning to find that their beach had been stripped away; some have lost more than ten feet while others are losing the tourism dollar. There are well-known causes for erosion such as climatic changes, but in the case of Hopkins it is believed that a structure constructed in the north of the village is causing the shoreline to retreat rapidly. Duane Moody reports.
Duane Moody, Reporting
Hopkins Village in southern Belize has readily become an eco-friendly paradise for tourists—both local and international—who would experience the best of both worlds…the warmth of the rainforest and the cool, relaxing sandy beaches along the shores of the Caribbean Sea. That was until recently when the coastline began suffering from an extreme case of erosion. It started just over a week ago and since then up to twelve feet of beach has literally disappeared.
Wayne Casimiro, Chairman, Hopkins Village
“Over last week, we had massive beach erosion and from the looks of it this has been the worst beach erosion ever. I have spoken with a couple elders; even up to this morning, I spoke to the oldest woman in Hopkins village; she has experience here and in new town and she is saying that she has never seen such drastic erosion. It has been a situation because the banks…it’s a bank now and no longer a straight beach. So residents are concerned now because in some areas where there are no trees, they have lost more than twelve feet of beach. So it is a major concern.”
Many residents have since lost a large chunk of their beachfronts and the value of their properties has depreciated drastically. For one resort, not only has its picturesque seafront disappeared, but most of its guests ended up cutting their vacations short while others canceled when they arrived and saw that there was no beach.
Damian Grieco, Owner, Coconut Row Guesthouse
“All of a sudden we woke up one day. We had a fence that was about ten feet away from the water’s edge and we woke up one day and part of it was under water. The rest fell in a few days later as the erosion continued. We had some of the most gorgeous beach on the mainland in fact and our guests come just to swim in the ocean and enjoy the beach. Everybody ended up checking out earlier or canceling because we turned from a beach to a cliff overnight.”
Panicking, Hopkins Chairman, Wayne Casimiro, and Coconut Row’s Damian Grieco—with the assistance of the Belize Tourism Board—called the Department of Environment, who visited the village late last week. They would later be notified that it is the purview of the Lands Department to make recommendations on corrective measures. The erosion, however, has worsened since then and within two days, approximately four feet was gone, leaving behind a cliff instead of a beach.
“Our business is, we’ll be out of business unless this is resolved quickly. That’s part of the frustration, you know. A few departmental…I don’t know if they are squabbles or environment has control of one part and lands has control of the other and these things take time, but this is immediate. We are averaging two feet of beach loss a night. So we will be under water pretty soon unless this is resolved.”
Aside from environmental conditions such as climate change, it is believed that the unprecedented erosion is the result of a groyne built by Hopkins Bay on the north side of the village. Essentially, the manmade hydraulic structure interrupts water flow and limits the movement of sediments; hence creating beach. The controversial groyne has been at the center of complaints made by several other properties that have also lost a large portion of their beach in the past few months.
“Yes, they came in on Friday to do a preliminary study of the situation and one of the things that they are pinning their assessment on is a groyne at one of the major resorts here in Hopkins on the northern end that is keeping some of the sand from moving in. So that is one of the major things that we think may be a factor that is causing the erosion, but they said that there might be other things that is contributing to the present situation. So we are waiting for them to give us a final conclusion as to what to do and where to go from here.”
“Is there any kind of maybe measures that you can do right now to slow down the process?”
“Well there is a few things that we are doing. We are putting sandbags along the edge of the beach just to slow down the material that is being loss. The beach is eroding less because the waterline has come up to where all the coconut trees are and the root system is working. But now the trees are starting to fall in, so we are actually roping up the trees, trying to shore them up…build little boxes of sand around them to keep them alive. We’ll hope to slow it down that way.”
With time quickly running out; Minister of Tourism, Manuel Heredia Junior’s intervention was sought.
Manuel Heredia Jr.
Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Tourism
“My understanding is that a certain area was allowed to put a jetty, but I believe that there was not planning, there was not much consultation. When you do these things, you have to look at the entire length of the area and to see if your neighbors have the resources to do what you are doing. but definitely I believe that we have to take a serious look as to what is happening in that area and make sure that the areas are not affected drastically or that serious erosion doesn’t continue because it is really something that we need to put a lot of attention. And definitely, even though it is not my area, even though probably it doesn’t have much to do with tourism, but beaches are future tourist destinations. So definitely we have to take a close look at that.”
Duane Moody for News Five.
The Lands Department is expected to visit the village on Tuesday.