Friday, March 20, 2009

The Art of Fooling Everyone!

I just saw a copy of the Bay Islands Voice with an article about what the Mayor of Guanaja had in mind to attract people to the island and draw in more tourists by making the island more attractive.

Since I don't have a copy of the magazine, I must write from memory.  In essence what it relayed was that through money coming to Guanaja from outside sources (already we have received $13M), the Mayor is planning on spending $3M to improve the area around Pelican Bay.  He claims to be actively pursuing the building of a Malecon, an oceanfront boardwalk running along the main street.  He claims they will build it from cobblestones.   It will sport restaurants, a protective barrier for the beach, have an "event center", create a new dock area, and a few more amenities that I am unable to recall.  

First of all, Pelican is a compact, very tightly built community with no room for a "boardwalk" without getting rid of some of the wooden structures used as homes along the main street.  Pelican has no real "beach" and most of the view looks out at shipyards and homes built out over the water.  He claims the streets/boardwalk will be built of cobblestones.  Just where he is going to get these, I don't know.  As to restaurants, we could use a few, good quality restaurants but if you are in the Pelican area this is not going to happen.  It has a very large crime rate and it is not what one would consider an "middle class" area. I am sure that if we went to the office of the Mayor, we would be hard pressed to find any working "plans" or "drawings" for this project.  

Now, while on the whole the concept is a good one and shows thinking for bettering the community, I would think the people of Guanaja would get so tired of hearing about all these grandiose plans for their island when we need help with basic things first. We have a new airport terminal, inaugurated late last year, which was promptly locked up and sits unused.  From what I understand part of the reason may be because the cost to run the terminal, especially the electrical costs, could not be covered by the City of those who own the terminal.  So, another white elephant sits rotting.  

If the Mayor would focus his attention on getting tourists to return to the island by making the building of townhouses, condos, hotels easier and with less unnecessary paperwork, this would be a step forward.  While the present administration is committed to building a road on the west side of the island, supposedly along the beach of all places, they should take a look at the problems a road has brought to Roatan.  I'm sorry, but road construction is not a strong area in the Honduran trades.  They can't even build and maintain roads on the mainland.  Every year they are washed out and why?  They need to relocate or build proper drainage or just build better roads!  So, they want to rush in to build a road on a pristine island that has lived for centuries without one.  It took them years to build a simple road from Savannah Bight to Mangrove Bight and then another year to finally concrete the road.  This was all a flat surface, for the most part, and did not present the problems one would encounter by building a road on the beach or through the mountains of the island.  Not to mention the huge cost, which the island can not afford.  And maintenance of a road - well, just don't get me started on that one.

Also, we have had so many projects start and fail.  We have no "bond" law here where a contractor must provide a bond up front which will guarantee that the project will be completed even if the builder pulls out!  We have been waiting more than 10 years for the supposed Iguana Beach Super Resort to be built; we have been waiting 2 years or more for the contractors to rebuild the Bayman Bay Resort; we have been observing for years the slow but ineffective building of the point above the Crazy Parrot only to see a couple of the condos torn down because of termites in the building - and they weren't even finished.  The Hotel Posa del Sol is still sitting years after Mitch with no one refurbishing and reopening.  The only tourist project that has been going ahead successfully is the ClearWater Paradise Resort on the west side near the town of Mangrove Bight.  However, this is being built by two individuals who are committed to a business for divers and giving jobs to the locals.  Michael's Rock is owned by several Hondurans and nothing has ever come of any development of that area.  We had an Italian Resort in Sandy Bay which was abandoned, purchased and supposedly being rebuilt.  That lasted about 9 months.  Then the contractor pulled out two years ago December and left, you guessed it, unfinished buildings and a mess.

What we need on the island is a government that will cooperate with new people coming in.  Stop gouging them with outlandish fees.  Establish a strong base fee that will deal with building permits fairly.  Establish an office that knows how to estimate the worth of a building.  Establish a center where people can go and find the names of contractors, supplies, people willing to work and names of people having special skills and have information available which will relate the good and bad of anyone dealing with construction on the island.  Namely, a Chamber of Commerce.  We need walking paths where people can traverse the island on foot and see the inner beauty of it.  We need building codes that will be enforced so that "just any old" shack cannot be constructed. We need better electrical and water service.  We need a police service that is run to serve the people and be provided with a boat so they can do their job of protecting the island people.  

I laugh when I read false advertisements for business:  The Crazy Parrot Bar is described as a bar Located in Sandy Bay (The Bight), right on the bay, two beautiful designed gazebos accented by Local Artist Ian Fisher's authentic island paintings is home to a Bar/Restaurant open everyday except for Mondays. The Crazy Parrot offers a menu for Lunch and Dinner specializing in Fried Chicken and Fries, Fish soup, Jerked Chicken, Lobster fritters and BBQ pit specialties. A popular full service bar offers a wide selection of exotic cocktails, frozen drinks, local and international beer and a full selection of imported wine. The Crazy Parrot Bar is a sporting theme establishment featuring 5-A-Side Football pitch with floodlights. Weekly competitions with prizes make this activity an exciting place to see the local night life. There is also a swimming pool, pool table and table football. The sound system is the best in the Bay Islands providing great island entertainment for Dancing and Karaoke nightly.  

99% of this ad is totally false.  I will agree the two gazebos "were" painted by a local artist with a beautiful mural but has since been painted over with splashy colors and to what end I do not know.  As to the menu - they never offered Jerked Chicken, Lobster fritters nor had exotic cocktails or frozen drinks nor a full selection of imported wine.  As a bar sporting theme establishment featuring 5-A-Side Football pitch with floodlights - a joke.  There were never weekly competitions with prizes and the swimming pool was a large, above-the-ground affair mainly used by children along with a trampoline which was used unsupervised.  There was a pool table but I had never see a table football game.  As to the sound system being the best in the Bay Islands.....never.  And they never provided Karaoke nightly.  We need truth in advertisement and someone to make sure that the ads out there are updated - at least those appearing in local guide books.

Guanaja cannot pull itself up by the boot straps unless our Mayor and the people decide they need to tend to the basics - those things that are reasonable and can be supported!  You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

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