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Nature's Refuge at Port Royal Written and Photographed by Thomas Tomczyk
A 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.

While 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.

One of the 89 markers placed to mark the park's boundaries in 1984
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.

In 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 areas.
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 Bight.
"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 Bay Islands.
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.

View of the Fort Saint George Cay from the Port Royal Park ridge.
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Memo to: Newly Elected President Porfirio (Pepe) Lobo Sosa by George Crimmin

"Not 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.

Dear 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 Waldo Emerson:

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Cayos Communities Choose Water

First of Bay Islands Series of Four Development Projects

This 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."

Ian Drysdale works with the Cayos communities to define project ideas.

On 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 Fund (WWF).
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.

Back in the Saddle Again
Julio Galindo Takes Oath of Office

Campaigning 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.

Mayor, vice-mayor and city council members take oath of office.

In 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.
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Airlines back up to high season levels

Airport Improvements and Renovations Underway

Bay Islands Voice compiled the newest airline schedules:
INTERNATIONAL
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.

DOMESTIC
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 Tegucigalpa.
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.

Isleña flies twice a day through La Ceiba.

December 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.

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