From Pat Stiley
I just paid Polo another $120, for parts and labor, for my beat up, old golf cart. I spent about $300 in the preceding three weeks. I budget these expenses for the high tides of October, every year, since construction of Reef Village commenced. It’s sort of my tribute, or contribution to Reef Village, and other developments, who return to me no apparent benefit.
Don’t get me wrong. If the people of San Pedro want to give up the lagoon, crocodile breeding grounds, mangroves, and migrating roseate spoonbills for some construction dollars, that’s their business. I’m confident that some of those construction workers are San Pedranos, and that contributions to Beliceno politicians eventually trickle down to the people of La Isla Bonita. If I don’t like it, as a responsible citizen, I can vote for the Party which intends to change things.
I want to talk about roads. Well, actually, I want to talk about the cart path, North of the Bridge, where I live. As I’m sure you’ve read, there are no roads, North of the Bridge. The Town Board has no road maintenance responsibilities, North of the Bridge. There is only a cart path, a sort of voluntary easement, largely on private property, maintained by residents and businesses, on the North end. The tax dollars of the Northern property owners don’t go to the maintenance of the Northern cart path; they go, among other things, to maintenance of the roads South of the Bridge.
Perhaps a little history will help.
When I moved to the North side, before I was even a citizen of Belize, there was hardly a cart path. Bicycles, pedestrians, and golf carts shared the risks of travel upon donated “two by sixes”, stretched over swampland. Years of neighborhood efforts, with major contribution by the previous owners of Sweet Basil, and by Chris Barenfanger, finally established a cart path through the San Mateo flats, sturdy and high enough to support golf carts, even during the high tides of October. That precious quarter-mile is now, of course, history, mere bubbles surfacing in the deepening , cart-swallowing, bike-breaking black holes of our current “passageway”.
Neighbors, further North, maintained a passable cart path, constantly fighting the annual rains, but improving the path, with each passing season. No one asked for, or received, tax dollars to maintain the path.
To the contrary, the Mayor’s kind offer to grade and smooth the path was rejected. Neighbors , who had built the path, knew that grading would destroy it, removing the hard earned crust, and lowering the path to sinkhole status. In fact, the well intentioned efforts of a Northern business have done just that, reversing years of community venture, and destroying one of the most stable stretches of the Northern path (see photos). As you might imagine, a cart path maintained by shovels and wheelbarrows, does not do well under tractors and trucks.
What to do, other than complain about ruined brakes and bearings?
Well, we thought we had done it. A Statutory Instrument was vetted in public meetings, endorsed by the PUP , the UDP, and the taxi drivers. Among other things, it prohibited large vehicles North of the Bridge. It was properly gazetted. The Town Board, to its credit, forbade the passage of large vehicles, on the Bridge. An “emergency” vehicle exception is frequently abused, but that question might best be reserved for a separate discourse.
Community efforts notwithstanding, our little cart path is a soggy shadow of its former self. The trucks, and heavy equipment of Reef Village, in spite of token loads of sand, continue to regularly destroy it as a pathway for people, carts, and bicycles. Puddles two and three feet deep continue to ruin bicycles and golf carts, confound pedestrians, and discourage visitors. Because there is only one cart path, no schoolchild, worker, resident, or tourist can reasonably access the North side, when it rains, or the tides are high. The first quarter mile, once painstakingly maintained for golf carts and bicycles, is now controlled by Reef Village, and frequently passable only in trucks and tractors.
Northern stretches of the cart path are similarly victimized. Commercial haulers, and non-resident construction projects simply avoid the bridge prohibition, by barging their trucks and equipment to the North side. They, then, frolic up and down the Northern cart path, hauling their bricks and refrigerators, oblivious to their destruction of the cart path. Perhaps they believe it to be a road, maintained by taxes. Perhaps they just don’t give a damn. Certainly, no Northern resident, tasked with volunteer maintenance of the path, would insult his neighbors with the passage of a heavy truck.
That brings me to possible solutions. One might be to simply enforce the Statutory Instrument, seizing or penalizing the offending vehicles. Sadly, their owners have not responded to educational efforts, or to desperate pleas from the workers, residents, and businesses of the North side.
Perhaps those vehicles could be licensed by the Town Board, with daily fees, to be used to repair their daily damage to the cart path, given the tiredness of the local homeowners, and their shovels. God forbid, perhaps they could be required to repair their own damage, with some of the profits they gain, while destroying our cart path.
Whatever the best solution, something must be done, and soon. It is simply unjust to allow the destruction of the only route of residents, schoolchildren, tourists, workers and shoppers to town. It makes no sense, to allow the profit of so few, at the expense of so many.
If local government chooses to take no role in protecting the Northern cart path, it should empower those who maintain it to organize, and to render it effectively impassable to large vehicles, or to seize or disable those vehicles which destroy it, thereby enforcing sensible law.