Crooked Tree in danger of isolation by floodwaters

Viewers with sharp memories may recall the days when the only way to reach the picturesque village of Crooked Tree was by boat. Well, those days may be back, as when I visited Crooked Tree today the waters had over-run the causeway and were about to once again turn the village into a caye.

Donald Tillett, Director, Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary
“I am very concerned. This water would normally rise after a storm or a hurricane, but it’s obvious that we haven’t had one yet.”

Jacqueline Godwin, Reporting
The crooked tree lagoon has broken its banks and the water is now flooding the only road into the village.

The water has been slowly creeping onto familiar landmarks like the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary Visitors Centre.

Jacqueline Godwin
“Where is the water coming from?”

Donald Tillett
“We have water coming from the drainage from the land and from Black Creek. So it’s like two forces meeting up, and that is what is causing the rapid rise.”

Some of the dry trails are already underwater and the Belize Audubon Society is studying the situation to decide whether or not they should now close their park.

Allen Genius, Manager, Co Manage Park, B.A.S.
“Right now we are really concentrating on the safety of visitors within the sites. We want to ensure that the visitors are safe as they go in the different protected areas we manage.”

Presently only high vehicles can safely make it across the causeway. Jex bus service has been providing transportation to the villagers but if the water continues to rise then the residents will need to be transported by boat.

David Wade, Resident, Crooked Tree Village
“It affects us to the point where some people can’t go to work when it gets like this. You have people that don’t normally go on the buses, and so they take their own vehicles and it is impossible for them to go across.”

Rudy Crawford, Chairman, Village Council
“It can create a lot a problem if it stops the bus from coming across. Then we have to deal with crossing people by boat. But the situation is that with the cost of gas it would be hard and for the native people to provide a boat plus gasoline.”

Jacqueline Godwin
“The villagers fear that if the rains continue the lagoon and causeway will not only continue to flood, but those families living along the waterside will have to move to higher ground.”

David Wade
“At this point in time, yes I am very much concern. If it rains another three, four days, definitely those that live just beside the lagoon will have to move to higher ground.”

George Reynolds says because there is no water system in the village they are also concerned that the flood will contaminate the wells.

George Reynolds, Asst. Treasurer, Village Council
“Because this water will start go into the well, which is not healthy. I don’t have that kind of problem yet, but I know that will be a health hazard sooner or later. Somebody toilet will flush into the well, which is no good. We keep telling them about that water system from long ago and they keep promising that they would put the water system in, but they haven’t gotten around to it.”

“People get their water from the well. It use to work, but it use to get the people sick often, and now that we are aware of these things, I think it hurts us more. So we need a lot a help especially with that water system. As soon as they get a break they should see to that water system; that should be the number one priority.”

Rudy Crawford, Chairman, Village Council
“My main concern is, I wish I could get some people to offer some assistance. At least from the government side to offer to help with at least fuel to get the boat across.”

Tourism in the village has also been affected. We were unable to reach Paradise Inn where the water has now completely engulfed the property forcing it to close. Birds Eye View Lodge remains open but the owners are keeping a close watch as the water has completely covered their vegetation.

Jacqueline Godwin
“Are both you guys concerned that you might have to close for a while, until the water recedes? I mean right now you still have guests here.”

Norma Gillett, Owner, Birds Eye View
“We are very concern about that. And our employs are also very concern about that as well. If we close they will be lacking their pay cheque. So we are very concern. We have a lot of booking up to end of the month and next month as well.”

Denver Gillett, Owner, Bird’s Eye View
“This is not even a threat from any storm this is just rain. This is rain water not even water from the river. We did not get any water from Cayo river yet.”

Jacqueline Godwin
“So all of that has yet to make its way down this side?”

Denver Gillett
“All of that will make its way down sooner or later. Hopefully not but it might. This is just rain water.”

Jacqueline Godwin
“This quite a big difference from last July?”

Denver Gillett
“This is a huge difference from last July. Last July, as I said, we had a group of twenty-nine kids here and they were playing volleyball out where the water is twenty-five feet deep now.”

But things do not look good as the Belize Weather Bureau says another system is forecasted to bring more rain.

Denver Gillett
“We will have to cancel those bookings and make refunds. Unfortunately, a lot of people pay up-front for their vacation and they were looking forward to it.”
If the villagers will need to move some will be housed with relatives or at the hurricane shelter … a building still in need of a bathroom and kitchen.

Donald Tillett
“Yes, I am responsible for monitoring the water daily. We have seen a dramatic rise since last month. We even noticed that during the dry season the water did not go down. Normally every year in April and May we would not have any water to give any reading to the meteorology department, but this year we have had readings all the way through.”

If you are planning to visit Crooked Tree Village you are advised to call first for advice on conditions.