story / george
Nature's Refuge at Port Royal
Written and Photographed by Thomas Tomczyk
31-year effort of creating a land protected area on the East Side
of Roatan, begins to bear fruit
Erick Anderson, of BICA, sits on a rock marking one of the
highest points of the ark and Roatan itself.
Roatan is known for its Marine Park, few people know that
the island also has a designated terrestrial park, Port
Royal Wildlife Refuge (Port Royal Park), one of only a few
protected land areas on Roatan. While the Marine Park is
managing to patrol around 20% of the island's reef, the
vast majority of Roatan's land is unprotected. On Roatan,
an island the size of 49 square miles (31,360 acres), the
protected land area comprises only 3.9% of the total - practically
all of it the Port Royal Park. In 2010, one of the last
areas of undeveloped land on Roatan is making its stand.
The eastern part of the island is dryer than most of Roatan's
western side and offers a unique microclimate. Trade winds
pick up moisture as they blow east to west over Roatan,
but around Port Royal large patches of the pine forest have
been replaced with grasses and shrubs.
For now at the Port Royal Park green parrots still fly overhead,
and the park's watusa and iguana populations are quite healthy.
However, protecting the park from hunters of deer, and poachers
looking for green parrots is now a new priority. Two rangers
have been hired to patrol the park, and the next step in
the process is to fence the entire park. Erick Anderson,
East End resident and BICA (Bay Islands Conservation Association)
board member, estimates that five to six miles of fencing
will be needed for that purpose. Anderson was instrumental
in creating the Port Royal Park.
The idea of a park began in the 1970s when land was still
plentiful, Roatan had no roads, only trails, and had only
a fraction of today's population. The park was created in
1978 with Santos Guardiola Municipality decree number 22
which established the park and mentions the park size as
500 hectares (1,235 acres)," mas o menos [more or less]."
Santo Guardiola Mayor Puchie signed the document that gave
the park its legal status. "He [Mayor Pouchie] had
enough vision to sign the decree," says Erick Anderson.
In Honduras, untitled land (which the area of the park was
in the 1970s) is considered 'national land,' and while it
is a national resource it is also an invitation for land
grabs and abuse of resources that the state has little interest
and resources to protect.
To most Roatan residents back in 1970s, the land in the
hills above Port Royal seemed useless: to unfertile to be
used for farming or even pastures and too remote and inaccessible
to be considered for homes. The park's land is sandy, acidic
soil, not good for planting. At the time, the only interest
people had in the land that now is part of the park was
in logging, and deer and iguana hunting. Oak Ridge residents
would use the land to gather free post wood.
of the 89 markers placed to mark the park's boundaries in
1984, Operation Raleigh, a UK organization similar to that of
America's Peace Corps, brought in student volunteers who placed
89 markers marking the boundaries of the park. For the protection
and growth of the Port Royal Park, the big break came in 1989,
BICA became involved in the protection of the park.
1989 BICA was named by CODEHFOR as the administrator of the
Port Royal Park. BICA's involvement was badly needed as pressure
on the park boundaries and exploitation of its resources has
increased. Since the 1970s the attitudes of people have changed
and people see the land as a potential way to make money by
selling lots and building homes. Since the 1990s a number
of roads have been pushed through and one of them crosses
the park connecting the north shore with Port Royal. In summer,
illegally set brush fires rage for days destroying dry pine
forest and exposing soil to erosion, causing visible scars
across the landscape. The thin soil blows away in the wind
and plants have a hard time anchoring and growing in the exposed
The park's boundaries don't touch water, but do get very close,
just a few hundred feet in one place. These boundaries are
much under attack. People who see the park as a frontier waiting
to be conquered have begun to encroach on the park properties.
A war of attrition is fought over the 89 markers demarcating
the park's boundaries. According to BICA, the park is constantly
under threat from people moving fence boundary posts, producing
fictional land title documents and constructing homes within
the park boundaries.
After decades of struggle, there are skeptics about the Port
Royal Park's boundaries, or whether it is, in fact, legitimate.
"The port royal wildlife refuge is not real. The land
has a lot of owners such as the Greenwoods, Ebanks, Coopers,
and many more," wrote Chestlee G. Dilbert, who himself
is attempting to set up another protected area in Calabash
"Things are not as easy to identify as they seem. The
legal questions are quite complicated
the park boundaries
were never properly defined," said the technical assessor
of the SG Municipality, who did not want to be mentioned by
name. "Even the [Santos Guardiola] Municipality has sold
land that is part of the park," said the source. "The
idea is not to look for the entire 500 acres, but as much
as possible. There are just so many people who have claimed
part of the park."
The Honduran central government recognizes the park and, confusingly
enough, adds an extra 374 hectares to its territory. The 2005
official map of "Honduras' Protected Areas" locates
the "Port Royal Wildlife Refuge" with an area of
874 hectares and references the legal creation of the park
to two decrees: Santos Guardiola Municipal decree 20-1978,
and Res. AFE: 012-98.
The 2005 map also specifies two other parks in Santos Guardiola
Municipality: Saint Helena Wildlife Refuge (1,422 hectares)
and Barbareta Marine Reserve (10,108 hectares) created in
1982 where BICA is also designated as an overseer. In total,
there are nine official and proposed protected areas in the
One idea envisioned by BICA members is creating a corridor
that would connect the park land to Saint Helene and its protected
mangrove area; constructing a visitors center is another idea.
Anderson speaks of the intrinsic value of the park, a place
where people can visit to regenerate and refresh their spirits.
The protected park area is not only a safe haven to the plants
and animals of the island, but could one day serve as a tourist
attraction to the visitors to the island. With cruise ship
companies turning Roatan into an ever expanding tourist destination,
new attractions are in high demand. One vision of Port Royal
Park is to create hiking areas in the park, creating an alternative
tourist attraction for tourists who don't want to dive but
want to be a bit more active than just sitting on the beach.
While many see Roatan's biggest asset to be its reef, the
reef couldn't exist without the island itself. The reef's
future depends not only on management of the waters around
the island, but of the land adjacent to it. The condition
of the island's forests, mangroves and beaches have a direct
relation with the condition of the island's reef and the very
health and survival of Roatan's Marine Park depends on sustainable
management of its land and its future as a tourist destination.
of the Fort Saint George Cay from the Port Royal Park ridge.
story / george
/ local news
______________back to top
to: Newly Elected President Porfirio (Pepe) Lobo Sosa
by George Crimmin
gold, but only man can make a people great and strong; men
who, for truth and honor's sake, stand fast and suffer long".
The Honduran people have suffered a great deal during the
last several months and we now look to you for hope and
inspiration. I have never met you Mr. President, but one
thing about you strikes me as positive - you are persistent
and to persevere you must be persistent. I would wish you
good luck, but we are told that the only good luck many
great men ever had was being born with the ability and determination
to overcome bad luck. But I certainly offer you my sincere
congratulations on your outstanding victory. You have been
given a mandate by the people; it's now up to you to restore
the credibility and legitimacy of the Honduran society,
to the international community. A task I'm sure you realize
will not be easy - but Mr. President, nothing worthwhile
has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe
that something inside of them was superior to circumstance.
President Lobo, I firmly believe that success is a Journey,
not a destination, and the greatest thing is not so much
where we are, but in what direction we are moving. Finally,
Mr. President, to quote Franklin D. Roosevelt, "The
only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts
of today." Let us move forward with strong and active
faith". And faith Mr. President is like a boomerang;
begin using what you have and it comes back to you in greater
measure. The men who build the future are those who know
that greater things are yet to come, and that they themselves
will help bring about this future. Their minds are illuminated
by the blazing sun of hope. They never stop to doubt, they
haven't the time. You have a great challenge ahead Mr. President,
but with challenge also comes great opportunity.
Godspeed Mr. President.
Mr. President, you won a most impressive victory throughout
the country - In fact your party won a sweeping victory
at all levels of government. It was very apparent that the
Honduran people wanted change and a new direction for the
Nation. We are emerging from one of our most contentious
political crises in generations, and the duty to find solutions
falls squarely on your shoulders. The situation you have
inherited calls for swift bold action, however Mr. President,
the great strength of a country lies in the sense of loyalty
it can arouse in the hearts of its people. I do not envy
the task before you, but I do wish you well, because for
Honduras to succeed, your administration must succeed.
In the June 2008 Issue of The Voice I wrote an open letter
to then president Manuel Zelaya in regards to the people
he was associating with, my exact words were: "Mr.
President, the company you keep will determine the trouble
you meet." We all know what happened there - he obviously
did not take my warning very seriously. My advice to you
Mr. President, if I may be so bold, is that a man is humble
when he stands in the truth with a knowledge and appreciation
for himself as he really is. Author Blaise Pascal wrote
the following: "Nature imitates itself, a grain thrown
into good ground brings forth fruit, and a principle thrown
into a good mind brings forth fruit. Everything is created
and conducted by the same master: the root, the branch,
the fruit - the principles and the consequences." Yes,
Mr. President every action we take produces consequences,
good or bad. President Lobo, integrity in all things should
precede all else. The open demonstration of integrity is
essential for your administration. I believe that there
is a talent that supercedes all other talents, and that
is the ability to recognize talent. In the words of Ralph
story / george
/ local news
Communities Choose Water
of Bay Islands Series of Four Development Projects
effort is the second round of visits to the communities. The first
series occurred in July 2009, when each community gathered to identify
the three greatest risks climate change posed to their communities.
In the second round, each community defined one project to address
their particular risks, and outlined stakeholders, methodology,
and approximate costs. The next step in the process, according to
Drysdale, is to help apply for funding for each. If full costs cannot
be covered, then Drysdale and his team look to what can be accomplished
with the budget that is allotted.
Marcio Aronne, Coordinator for the Cayos Cochinos Foundation has
seen several projects implemented in his region, including projects
for education, garbage, and microenterprise, most of which have
had some level of success, he said. "This project will be successful
because it is simple and not complicated," he remarked.
"We worked together as a group to develop this project,"
said Carolin Buelto Jaime from Chachahuate. "This is why the
project will work. There is so much work to be done. I look forward
to developing other projects."
Drysdale works with the Cayos communities to define project ideas.
Saturday, January 16, fifteen members of East End and Chachahuate
gathered at East End Cabanas on Cayo Mayor for a workshop meeting
to define a project proposal to improve access to clean water for
the community through water catchments. The goal of the project
is to improve the health of the community, as well as to improve
tourism, goals that attendee and regional guide Wilmer Rivera regards
as "the most important need right now for this community to
live and prosper." The workshop was led by Ian Drysdale of
Luna Environmental Consulting, and Nanzi Duarte of World Wildlife
The project is one of four areas in the Bay Islands selected by
WWF to participate in a community development effort to reduce the
impact of climate change. The four areas in participation are Cayos
Cochinos (East End and Chachahuate), Utila Cays, Punta Gorda, and
Sandy Bay. The project is backed by the Belize office of WWF and
the Department for International Development (UK) in partnership
with the Honduran Government Climate Change Office and the Coral
Reef Alliance (CORAL), and implemented by Luna Environmental Consulting.
in the Saddle Again
Galindo Takes Oath of Office
again against each other again in the 2009 race, Galindo finally
assumed his position as mayor again.
Italio Tugliani was named municipal attorney. Tugliani was
the chief architect of ZOLITUR, and member of the transition
committee which also included Clinton Everett, Ricardo Merren,
and Neomie Lopez. Shawn Hyde was named Governor.
In the ceremony, previous mayor Jackson gave a farewell speech,
acknowledging the challenges of his mayoral position, and
thanking God for the strength to carry out his accomplishments.
Galindo, in his speech, drew large applause for his strong
stance on order and security for the island as the key point
in his speech. He quoted ex-diputado Jerry Hynds saying, "Security
is the most important thing we can have." He vowed to
crack down on crime in Roatan, pointing to drug addiction,
child delinquency, lack of punishment, high unemployment and
tourism as target problems to work on. He called on the help
of the community to keep the police, fiscales, and authorities
in check. Galindo also pointed to infrastructure, such as
building roads from Oakridge to Camp Bay and from the entrance
of Mud Hole to French Harbour, as integral to attracting and
facilitating foreign investment.
Present at the ceremony were Guanaja mayor Richmond Hurlston
and Santos Guardiola Perry Bodden, who was also sworn in earlier
on the same day at a ceremony in Pandy Town in Oak Ridge.
Utila mayor Alton Cooper was not in attendance.
vice-mayor and city council members take oath of office.
an inauguration ceremony at Roatan Bilingual School in Coxen
Hole at 3pm on January 25, Julio Galindo and the Roatan municipal
city council members from the National and Liberal Parties took
the oath of office on the Honduran flag. About 1,000 people
gathered to witness the changing of the guard between Julio
Galindo, and Dale Jackson, with Galindo becoming mayor and Jackson
taking his seat as first city council member.
Galindo began his political career as mayor from 1970 to 1974.
Galindo is a demonstrated businessman as owner of Anthony's
Key Resort, and nature enthusiast in his endeavors in marine
sciences and exotic plant preservation. He has always been active
in social issues, namely healthcare, potable water, and the
reduction of drug addiction and crimes. In the early 1990s,
he was instrumental in the creation of Proyecto Manejo Ambiental
Islas de la Bahia (PMAIB). In a race in 2005, Galindo ran for
the mayoral seat again against Dale Jackson and lost, assuming
his place as second city council member.
story / george
back up to high season levels
Improvements and Renovations Underway
Islands Voice compiled the newest airline schedules:
SunWing is the newest of the airlines serving Roatan as of
December 14, 2009. This charter flight flies direct from Toronto,
Montreal, and Ottawa with three flights a week, all arriving on
Mondays. The plane is a 737 Boeing with 189 person capacity.
Blue Panorama operates a 767 charter flight from Milan to
Roatan on Tuesdays.
Continental's high season schedule includes four flights
per week on Thursday, Saturday (2 flights) and Sunday between their
hub in Houston and Roatan.
Delta operates two flights per week on Saturdays between
their hub in Atlanta and Roatan.
TACA International is operating two flights on Saturdays
to their hub in San Salvador. The Saturday route to Houston was
cancelled as of January 23. They also offer daily flights at 4:30
pm direct from Roatan to San Salvador.
CM Airlines began service to Roatan in April of 2009 with
direct flights between Tegucigalpa and Roatan three times a week
on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.
Islena flies twice a day via La Ceiba to San Pedro Sula and
LANHSA has resumed its air taxi service between Roatan and
La Ceiba with seven flights per day in planes with 9 person capacity.
The airline also services Guanaja, San Pedro Sula, and Puerto Lempira.
SOSA continues to service various locations in Honduras three
times a day via La Ceiba.
flies twice a day through La Ceiba.
2009 at Roatan's Juan Manuel Gálvez International Airport
saw flight schedules increase to levels similar to 2008's high season,
reported Shanna Ebanks, airport manager. The airport is named for
a former president of Honduras, and is also known as Roatan International
Airport, with airport call letters RTB. In December, the airport
received one new airline, several airlines returned that had suspended
operations, and regular airlines increased their flight schedules
to high season levels. "While it is impossible to cite exactly
what factors led to what schedule changes," said Ebanks, "things
appear to be back to normal." Since the airline industry operates
strictly according to demand, the increased schedules suggest that
tourism is climbing back to pre-2009 levels.
In 2009, travel to Honduras dropped significantly with a series
of events that included a worldwide economic crisis, a swine flu
scare in the Central American region, an earthquake off the coast
of Roatan, and political tensions culminating in the Travel Advisory
against travel in Honduras issued by the United States and several
countries in Europe. This, combined this with the usual low season
(officially September to November according to airport schedules),
left the Bay Islands with record lows in tourist traffic.
Though traffic was down, improvements at the airport have been ongoing,
with renovations to the 7,349 ft (2,240 m) runway completed in early
2009. The government-funded reconstruction project for grooving
and repairing the runway began in October 2007, and work also continues
on 6,000 square meters of the lighting system. The airport's official
hours are 6am to 8pm, although according to airport officials, currently
all flights are completed by sunset due to the on-going work on
the lighting system. InterAirports, the private management company
and operator for the Roatan International Airport began an expansion
of the platform on the East and West wings on December 9, 2009.
The project is expected to cost Lps. 10,000,000.