Many of the docks along the eastern coast of Ambergris Caye are reportedly becoming less accessible due to their proprietors allegedly gating the over-the-water structures. There are cases where dock owners have signs at the foot of their dock, telling the public to stay away. In other areas of the island, there are even security personnel denying access to the dock. Recently, there have even been noticeable additions of gates to fully prevent access at any time of day. Many concerned island residents say these actions are illegal, since the structures are built on national land, and thus are to remain accessible by the general public.

The San Pedro Sun contacted the respective authorities to weigh in on the matter. Representatives from the Physical Planning Department (PPD) at the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) explained that in Belize, all land up to 66 feet from the high water level is considered national land or “Queen’s Land”. This means that docks are to be kept accessible to the public. The Department at the MNR indicated that by denying access, dock proprietors can lose their building permit and may be ordered to dismantle the structure. “Whenever a permit is granted, the erection of the structure on National Lands does not mean ownership, and no gates or barrier structure shall be placed on the dock,” said a spokesperson at the Ministry. “The public should be able to access the pier between the hours of 6AM and 6PM.”

The issue has reached local authorities on the island, who say that they understand the residents’ complaints and believe that every pier should be accessible to the public. However, as the jurisdiction of docks lies in the hands of the MNR, The San Pedro Town Council (SPTC) says they have limited control and are unable to enforce relevant laws. The Ambergris Caye Local Building Authority (ACLBA) responded similarly. According to Fidel Ancona of the ACLBA, they are only responsible to approve construction of piers. “Our only duty is to make sure that the design of the structure is proper and strong and that it does not have an impact on the environment,” said Ancona. “After an inspection is made, the applicant is provided with a recommendation from the SPTC to be taken along with their application to Belmopan.”

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