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Sep 7, 2000

Hidden Valley Falls returned to government

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Officially known as Hidden Valley, it’s more popularly known as the Thousand Foot Falls, even though its true height is closer to fifteen hundred. This week it was in the news, not due to any discovery by ecologists, but because of one made by lawyers.

Stewart Krohn, Reporting

Before Belize even contemplated a tourism industry, the Hidden Valley Falls had become a symbol of the magnificent natural attractions that the nation had to offer. But despite the pride and patriotism, the pristine falls held a dirty little secret: It had always been owned by a foreigner. That era came to an end on Wednesday when its papers were signed which returned the falls and 1,290 acres around it to government ownership.

Johnny Briceno, Minister of Natural Resources

“It is events like this that really makes me feel that the job that I’m doing is an important job. We have been talking for so long, for many years that the Thousand Foot Falls is not in Belizean hands and from the minute we got into office, we said that that was job number one, we need to find a way how we can do it in an amicable manner.”

“Mr. Headley was kind enough to cooperate with us. In a spirit of cooperation, we managed to come up to this compromise, where today we are signing off Thousand Foot Falls, with almost 1,300 acresof land into government’s hands and we will also designate it as a national monument for all Belizeans forever and ever and ever.”

The man who gave up the falls is no stranger to Belize. Julien “Bull” Headley, now a Belizean citizen, has been involved with the country for over 40 years. The owner of nearby luxury resort, Headley once used the land as a cattle ranch and rumor has it that a herd of wild cows still roams the remote valleys of the Mountain Pine Ridge. Despite a good deal of emotional attachment to the landmark, Headley was philosophical about its loss.

Julien “Bull” Headley, Owner, Bull Run Overseas Ltd.

“It’s long been thought that the Thousand Foot Falls is a tremendous asset to the country and we should share it.”

“I feel like I’m transferring the ownership of one person, to the ownership of many, and I am in favour of that. I’ve got no fault to find with that. The only thing that I hope, is that the government will see fit to maintain this property, keep it clean, so the public can enjoy it. Police it, so nobody falls over this precipice, and gets hurt and to keep the roads in such conditions that two wheel drive vehicles can safely come and go.

The land also includes a number of buildings, not to mention roads. But before anyone begins to feels sorry for Bull, it must be noted that in exchange for his 1,300 acres he received 5,000 in return, albeit much less spectacular acreage. But while some could criticize the deal, no one was disagreeing with the result.

Ida Sauceda, President, Belize Tourism Industry Assoc.

“I believe this shows a commitment by the government for the natural resources and our environment and it shows the commitment to our industry. I think we as the tourism industry has to benefit if we work along with the government enhancing this product and making it a part of our Belizean product in a bigger way.”

Johnny Briceno

“We know it’s a highlight on the visit to the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve and we need to put it to more use so that more Belizeans can see it, more Belizeans can enjoy it and even foreigners. But obviously there is a cost to it. Government does not have the necessary funds to do it, so will be looking at a group, an organisation that will probably be able to manage it for us properly and then take care of this site, ensure that it becomes even better developed, more well know and so that the facilities can be used for a very long time to come.”

until more improvements are made, visitors are asked to drive carefully, walk carefully and please keep the area clean. Remember that we’re no longer trespassers. Stewart Krohn for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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