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May 26, 2016

Blackadore Caye Development is Back on Track

Blackadore Caye Resort is back in the news tonight. The multimillion-dollar, eco-friendly, luxury resort project restructured, following a round of consultations in San Pedro in which residents expressed serious concerns in January about environmental impact that the proposed luxury resort could have on the fragile eco-system. Well someone has been listening because at a media event today, it was revealed that the project has been downsized considerably. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Blackadore Caye, an island west of Ambergris Caye, is an expansive hundred-and-four-acre landmass.  Once a layover for fishermen traversing these emerald green waters, the island was teeming with flora and fauna.  Much of what was this lush, tropical retreat has since transformed into desolate grassland, the physical result of erosion and other environmental stresses.

 

Juan Ravalo

Juan Ravalo, Biologist

“Eighty percent of the coverage of the island is the grasses that have been taking over the land, and the land is being taken over by the grass through erosion of the fertile soil that is produced by the coastal littoral forest.  When you lose that soil into the water then the grass can grow another feet forward.”

 

This vast savannah continues to inch its way across much of Blackadore Caye.  The only other plant life here are clusters of coconut trees.  These too have been affected by the ecological phenomena that is ravaging the island.  While the actual size of the property has reduced by three acres since it was purchased several years ago, vegetation is also adversely impacted.  A majority of these tropical trees are covered by colonies of red palm mites.  Biologist Juan Ravalo describes what has been taking place.

 

Juan Ravalo

“The original vegetation was cleared out and the coconut was planted in order to produce coconut.  So, since it’s a very narrow caye the soil is hyper-salinic.  So it’s very difficult for plants to thrive here, plants that are not hyper-saline tolerant or adapted to it.  So you can see some of the coconuts here are very sick.  We have, as all the Caribbean area, we have red mites and we have lethal yellowing.  So the coconut here doesn’t thrive either.  The only reasonable thing to do is to bring back the native plants and native ecology.”

 

That concept, the first of its kind in restoring an island, is part of an ambitious undertaking to create the future home of the most ecofriendly luxury development ever built.  The idea itself is quite grandiose, however, with input from arguably the world’s top architect of exclusive hotel resorts, it seems fairly practical.

 

Dionne Chamberlain

Dionne Chamberlain, Chamberlain Consulting

“We’re excited to have architect Jean-Michel Gathy onboard with us and the reason why we’re excited is because with John Michel Gathy you don’t choose him, he chooses you.  He decides that he needs to like the project, he needs to feel good about the operator, he needs to know that it’s not just business and you’re passionate.  He uses minimalism, embraces culture and environment and history in his design and him, along with Jason McLanahan are going to give us that living, building island that we are seeking.”

 

The initial design for the high-end escape has been scaled down considerably, following a round of consultations with stakeholders in San Pedro in mid-January.  That open exchange of opinions brought forward specific concerns, including the possible economic impact on the livelihood of local fishermen who would be  displaced from that area of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve.

 

Miguel Alamilla

Miguel Alamilla, Manager, Hol Chan Marine Reserve

“I think the real issue here is not the results you will get from your bio-mimicry but the actual over the water structures and how they will be affected or displaced from their traditional fishing grounds.  And again, bio-mimicry is just a fancy word, the Sam Pedro Tour Guide Association has been doing that, local fishermen have been doing that for years, centuries even.  The Mayas were doing bio-mimicry. So it’s highly likely that your structures will attract fish but the real issue is the displacement of those fishermen from their traditional fishing grounds.”

 

Those issues have been partly addressed by Belize Rural South Area Representative and Minister of Tourism Manuel Heredia Junior.

 

Manuel Heredia Jr.

Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Tourism

“If you want to restore the island as they want to do, they want to have it in a way that will be more beautiful and so, heck you are spending tons of money to do this and if you, the density of the island, of construction of the island is so great then there will practically be nothing to restore.  So that is the reason they were using and they were very selective as to the area where they will build the structures.  Yes, if it can be downsized fine; it’s there for discussion but let us sit down and dialogue.”

 

Notwithstanding a pending environmental impact assessment, the project is being touted as a worthwhile investment, one which A list actor Leonardo DiCaprio has bought into as a principal in the Blackadore Group.

 

Dionne Chamberlain

“The current island profile and the future island cross-section, it’s really a good project and we understand that there were concerns, people thought it was not restorative but financially viable.  It will be financially viable.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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1 Response for “Blackadore Caye Development is Back on Track”

  1. steven says:

    Once you grease the right wheels…you get what you want…money does talk ……

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