If there is one thing that I learned in my short stint with the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) it was how to set up a ribbon cutting ceremony.
There were at least four of them. That worked out to one a month. To which you can also add a month-long celebration of bicycling which culminated in a bike festival followed by a single day in which thousands of people actually rode their bicycles to work and school.
SANDAG is many things but its biggest role is as the transportation agency for the 3.2 million people in San Diego County. And it handles its duties extremely well. It builds highways, bike paths, railroad tracks and bridges – and I contributed to organizing ribbon cutting ceremonies for each of those.
So it was with some professional curiosity that I decided to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony Saturday night for the San Pedro Sunset Boardwalk & Water Taxi Terminal on the lagoon side of San Pedro Town.
Plus, as a new resident, this was a great way to see many of the local movers and shakers in one setting.
For the past couple of years, the western waterfront has been undergoing a major overhaul. Old docks have been replaced, a well-drained and level football pitch was built and importantly, new terminals for local and international water taxis have been built.
As several people noted during the ceremony, this area was where boats with fruit and produce and other goods would land, off-load their products in an instant marketplace. The water taxis – a very common mode of transportation between the islands and mainland – land on the Caribbean Sea side. The water taxi traffic will be shifting over to the lagoon and taking with it the traffic-clogging vehicle taxis that would line up to collect passengers.
There are other amenities on the new waterfront, like food and crafts vendor sheds, facilities for sportfishing and diving excursion firms and lots of docking space for commercial and pleasure boats.
Importantly, there are good traffic circulation patterns on Caribeña and Buccaneer streets, which border the soccer field and lead directly to the new docks.
So, while I’m still pretty new here, I sense that there is a lot to celebrate as this BZ$6 million project nears conclusion.
Others must have felt the same. The Saca Chispas area was packed with people and parked golf carts ahead of the 6:30 p.m. ceremony.
Ribbon-cutting ceremonies in Belize seem to work out of the same playbook as they do in the states. Music, balloons, a master of ceremonies and tents to heighten the festive atmosphere – check. Kids from the Roman Catholic primary school sang the national anthem. A local priest delivered the invocation, in Spanish.
The event was heavy with political dignitaries, both from Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye as well as the Taiwan Ambassador to Belize David Wu and key administrators from the Belize Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation.
The trick at these events is to make sure that everyone who should be, is acknowledged. Speeches can sometimes make Academy Award thank you speeches look short.
I like how the MC Eiden Salazar Jr. read off a long list of dignitaries and other attendees – what is called “establishing the protocol.” This enables the rest of the speakers to simply acknowledge “protocol,” perhaps thank a few more people and then jump right to the meat of their remarks.
And what was special about this evening’s remarks is that most of the speakers grew up right here in San Pedro and saw the changes that have taken place first hand. They include Einer Gomez, acting chairman of the Belize Tourism Board of Directors; San Pedro Mayor Daniel Guerrero; Belize Minister of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation Manuel Heredia Jr.; and a tourism pioneer on the island Celi McCorkle.
The waterfront complex looks impressive but cold. That will change. When water taxis start arriving filled with passengers and entrepreneurs begin filling the kiosks with their wares and food, the whole area will transform. It will be filled with people, coming and going, like at an airport, generating that unique energy that is often found in the busiest of airports.
I left a little early – hey I didn’t know they were going to have fireworks – feeling pretty good about our new home and the people in whose hands it has been placed by the voters.
Naturally I know nothing of the personalities and political rivalries and power struggles of San Pedro, let alone the whole country of Belize, but I do know passion and vision when I see it.
And I like what I saw Friday night.