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Nov 30, 2017

Vendors in Arms as Memorial Park Opens for Them

The Memorial Park has not fared as well as its counterparts, the B.T.L. Park and Battlefield Park, as a source of economic development for Belize City. This is despite its prime location in the heart of the tourism zone and right next to the Tourism Village. The Belize Tourism Board and the Village have been on an extended campaign to remove vendors selling art and handicrafts from the space behind Mirab on North Park Street, which is now renamed as Taiwan Street, into the park itself. But vendors have balked saying that they will be cut off from the flow of tourists strolling into the City from the cruise ships. Belize City Mayor Darrell Bradley conceded that they have a point but continued to justify the decision.

 

Darrell Bradley

Darrell Bradley, Belize City Mayor

“I think it is a legitimate concern and I think that one of the things we have to emphasize, is that when we do things, we do it in consultation with those people who we intend to benefit. One of the original problems with the booths in Memorial Park was that you created a booth that was too small, it was painted gray, it looked unattractive; so it didn’t really – because you rightly point out that when you are selling craft you want to show them; display areas are very big. When we did B.T.L. Park one of the things we were very concerned about was cooking space and for health reasons you have to have a larger space; recently one of the most successful businesses in B.T.L. Park approached us to double their size because they wanted to expand. So I think that it’s an important point. One of the things that was a challenge though in relation to how the area was designed was we are only in the bottom triangle of the park, so there’s not that much space, so that a lot of the sizing of the booths was determined by the physical amount of space in that area of the park and the amount of people you want to localize but there is no problem with those people using areas outside of their booths. The booth was purposed for being like a staging area or like your base of operations. But it’s by no means closed to say that you only have to sell from your booths. When I go behind Mirab I see many of those people have booths and many of them set tables outside of their booths – that’s what we want. We want it to be like a market kind of feel so when you go there the whole area is a vending area. I can again point to Michael Finnegan Market – many of the people in Michael Finnegan Market have their booth but many of them sell from outside their booth and we are perfectly fine with that. What I am saying that that is open for discussion, we’ve never been closed-minded in terms of options especially since we mean to benefit these people, so whatever these people need in relation to ensuring that their business is viable and thriving, we are prepared to do that.”

 

We note that while the B.T.L. and Battlefield Parks were designed and constructed by the Council, the Memorial was re-done as part of the Sustainable Tourism Program. This evening vendors were preparing to meet with a representative from the Belize Tourism Board. One vendor indicated that while they are not best pleased with affairs, they will give the Board a chance to explain its decision, while reserving their options.

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