The Boca del Rio Bridge: bridging the past to the future

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 16, No. 9            March 1, 2006

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The bridge imediately after completion.

It took years to become and reality, and now the new bridge closes the gap between North Ambergris and San Pedro Town.

Celi McCorkle, Mayor Elsa Paz, Barry Bowen, and UDP Party Leader Dean Barrow celebrate with the crowd as the ribbon is officially cut, signalling the inauguration of the Boca del Rio bridge.

It is not everyday that that one has the privilege of being a part of a historical event, an event that changes the very face of the community, an event that people will talk about for years to come. On Saturday, February 25th, 2006, the good people of San Pedro had the opportunity to witness an event that will indeed go down in the history books, when the much awaited Boca del Rio Bridge was inaugurated before a huge gathering of enthusiastic spectators. The project has not been without controversy, while some residents long for the days when San Pedro was a sleepy fishing village, and resist the inevitable wave of progress, others see the bridge as leading the path to prosperity, paved roads and four-storey buildings.

   The first bridge in Ambergris Caye now replaces the pull ferry which had been used for many years in the past. The bridge became necessary with the rapid growth of the community, when golf carts, bicycles, and pedestrians had to wait, at times, close to an hour before they would be able to cross during the peak hours of the day.

   Saturday was a grand night with red, white and blue flags anchored on the bridge swayed in the wind. Not one chair was empty as everyone awaited the cutting of the ribbon, marking the official bridge opening.

   On this historical night, speakers were more than eager to address the gathering with Miss San Pedro Leticia Lara giving the Welcome Address. “This is a project that has been in mind for so many years, and I am proud to say that it is finally a reality. Welcome!”

   Area Representative Manuel Heredia Jr. also welcomed those gathered stating, “I can recall very well when I was Mayor (94-97) when at that time we were thinking about people crossing from one side to the other, […] we converted it into the first ferry of the island. Today, […] together with the private sector we have been able to accomplish many things for “La Isla Bonita”. […] We have shown that together we can build many things and that is how this bridge became a reality. It was only four months ago when this bridge got started.”

   The following speaker chose San Pedro as his home and fully supported the Mayor and Councilor in building the bridge, Barry Bowen assisted financially with the construction of the bridge. He commented on the days gone by when San Pedro boasted two land rovers – the only two vehicles in the entire community. Bowen congratulated the efforts, hard work and dedication of the Mayor and her councilors along with the aid, advice and support of Honorable Heredia. He ended his speech, by stating that he would help the present council in any way possible.

   Mayor Elsa Paz stated in her speech, “When we got into office, we saw that the construction of the bridge was imminent. The increasing development on the north side of the island, and the large number of tourists and locals traveling in this area, had us questioning whether a permanent solution for the crossing was needed. Our answer to that question is clearly visible today through the beauty and grandeur of this structure. The Boca del Rio Bridge is more than a structure that will link the town core with the north side of the island; we hope that it will unite us as one people, one friendly group of neighbors, and as first-class hosts to the many visitors. […] It signifies hard work and struggles and we must all take care of it so that it may be enjoyed by generations to come. […] This bridge signifies the development of infrastructure from a humble fishing village to the vibrant vacation destination we have become. I leave you saying that real opportunities and progress such as this new bridge are in your hands.”

   Other speeches were given by Celi McCorkle, Leader of the Opposition Dean Barrow, and Director of the Ambergris Caye Chamber of Commerce, Tom Vidrine, prior to the cutting of the ribbon.

   Father Don lead the blessing precession across the bridge as the crowd followed close behind in an enthusiastic wave, crossing the Boca del Rio bridge for the first time.

   The new triple span bridge, 120 feet long and 23 feet wide, is capable of allowing emergency vehicles passage (when necessary), but is exclusively for the use of golf carts, bicycles and pedestrians. The new bridge, with a reported cost of BZ$750,000, was built in only four months by a crew of around 30, with financing provided by Barry Bowen. The loan will be repaid with funds raised from toll collections. Only golf carts will be charged a toll, while bicycles and pedestrians will be allowed free access.
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