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Jul 19, 2017

After 3 Decades, May Pen Builds Bridge to River Valley

Life will become easier for the residents of May Pen, Belize District. After a decade of waiting, they finally got their wish. The community will now be able to travel to other villages through a sturdy new bridge that was opened this morning. It is welcome news for students, who have had to walk bare feet through mud to attend school in nearby Biscayne. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The construction of a new bridge near the outskirts of May Pen Village in the Belize District has been long in the making.  For many years, residents of this seemingly forgotten community in the Belize River Valley have had to travel this lonely dirt road only to realize that crossing the creek at this location was oftentimes quite a headache.

 

Carl McCulloch

Carl McCulloch, Resident, May Pen Village

“We’ve been waiting for this for a lot of years now because the old bridge got messed up, rotted.  They fixed it, it broke again several times.  So for about the last ten years we’ve been at a position where no dump truck could go in and dump the road, so it was in horrible condition.  Even four-wheel-drive vehicles couldn’t make it during the rainy season, makes it very difficult for the people in May Pen because we’re mostly subsistence farmers or cattle ranchers and we need to get the stuff out and when it’s raining and it’s bad it’s impossible, you know to move products in and out.  So it made it necessary for quite a few of us to move out to be able to survive.  And we would come in a lot during the dry season and just avoid coming in the rainy season.”

 

Belize Rural North Area Representative Edmond Castro, who has been in office since 2008, admits that a bridge was indeed long overdue.

 

Edmond ‘Clear the Land’ Castro

Edmond ‘Clear the Land’ Castro, Area Representative, Belize Rural North

“For thirty-four years, they’ve been waiting for a better bridge and I promised them in 2008 that once I get elected I will facilitate and I will work hard to make sure that we put a better bridge here for May Pen.  This is not just for May Pen, this is for Belize.  When you look at communities like May Pen [that are] cut off from the rest of the country, especially in times of disaster, I know most of you can remember the flood of 2008 when it cost the Government of Belize in manpower, with B.D.F. boats and coastguard boats and every boat that we could have find to assist the people and farmers in this particular community.  It was extremely difficult and this part of May Pen, on this part of May Pen in front of Flowers Bank, is also a part of Flowers Bank.  So Flowers Bank is a community that’s on both sides of the river.  So this road access now would allow them to get in and out in case of emergency and also for productivity sake, in terms of cattle raring.”

 

Built at a cost of roughly two hundred thousand dollars, the new Bailey bridge will allow students attending primary school in Biscayne Village to travel to and from their destination unimpeded.

 

Carl McCulloch

“For most people in May Pen that live here and stay here, they tough it out and kudos to them because the conditions that the kids have to face to get to school.  Imagine having to get into a small fourteen feet or sixteen foot aluminum skiff when it’s raining.  Early in the morning, before seven o’clock, they would come to the river bank just above the bridge here, they would have to walk up slippery banks, being muddy and then they would have to get into a vehicle, drive to highway, get out of that vehicle and then catch a bus to the Biscayne School and repeat that process coming back in the evening time.  It’s very difficult, it’s a very difficult situation for them to study in, but still, people progress and they do very good in school, but it’s very, very difficult for them.”

 

This low-lying area of the Belize River Valley is flood prone.  With the bridge now providing access, residents can evacuate on their own whenever there is the threat of a flood or natural disaster.

 

Edmond Castro

“Now NEMO does not have to provide trucks, tractors or boats to evacuate the people from out of this May Pen area.  Now in case of emergency or flooding situations, NEMO will put out the warning and they will get the opportunity like everyone else to get on a tractor, get on a truck and load up their cattle, move them to safe and higher ground.  So when you look at what this bridge is doing for us, it is a miracle really because even the kids going to school, sometimes the land rover cannot bring them out so they have to take off their shoes and walk barefooted for one, two, sometimes up to two miles that the kids have to walk in mud and water just to get to school.  It was very, very difficult for the people in this area.”

 

The construction of the bridge also opens up the surrounding area to ecotourism, a livelihood that is largely missing in these parts. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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