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Monthly Archives: March 2015

Why Billionaire Russian visited PA

Omni Beach replenishment

still years away … unless

By Staff
   The acquisition of federal beach replenishment permits by the Catalonia Hotel in Puerto Aventuras and at Mayakoba has revived questions about when the long-delayed Fatima Bay project might get under way. At this juncture, there is little money and no date-certain. The project apparently remains years away.

Residents anxious for the project to be done and cranky over the delay should remember that patience is bitter, but the fruit is sweet. What might help is a general understanding of why there isn’t money for the project now, not even enough, says developer Arq. Roman Rivera Torres, to fund “all the studies” required for the permit process.

Where is the money supposed to come from?

The developer and the Colonos entered an agreement approved by voters at an assembly that if the developer paid for all the new streets and infrastructure in Phase 4 and turned them over to the Colonos for public use when completed – meaning the Colonos wouldn’t have to pay for the streets – the Colonos would then be able to collect building permit fees as lots were sold and houses built to fund the beach replenishment plan. The costs of the stonework needed to construct the underwater artificial reef would come from the Phase 4 rock pile from channel construction.

To date, as the developer nears completion of the Phase 4 canals perhaps by the end of April, Colonos GM Armando Rincon said the Colonos has collected only two building permit fees from Phase 4 and placed them in the beach replenishment escrow account for future use. It is hardly enough to get the beach project rolling.

The years it would take to raise enough from building permits was addressed at the time of the negotiations. What helped seal the deal at the time was a reported small group of wealthy owners of waterfront properties who would advance the money needed for the beach replenishment project then be repaid by the Colonos as fees were collected over the years.

Because of that, projections for an early completion were bandied about. Studies and requests for proposals were negotiated with the Oceanus firm and a Florida university professor after Rincon announced receipt of a signed loan agreement.

Initial phase would be for the design of an underwater barrier and construction of a barge. In June of 2013, Rincon announced the project would begin in a few weeks. Oceanus estimated in July 2013 the project would take eight months and if started that month, it could be completed by February 2014.

Then the loan fell through for no published reason.

Some beachgoers were disappointed as were some condo residents along the bay’s shore. Since that time, the developer has placed visible temporary reefs along the shore and reinforced some parts of the Omni Hotel beachfront bar and steps from being undermined by encroaching surf and to help trap what remains of the sand.

Unless there is a surprise funding mechanism, the project appears to be several years away, and that estimate is, thus far, fully dependent upon the pace of collecting Phase 4 building permit fees, which could be a fast or slow process. In the meantime, some beachgoers are making do in good spirit with what remains of Omni beach, or a pool perhaps and/or taking short day-trips to other beaches.

The fishing’s good! Call Capt. Rick’s and grab a pole!

EAR YE, EAR YE, EAR YE !

 

Feel alive! Take a dive with your friends at Aquanauts

Red Cross stalls opening

in search of more funding

   Reopening of the Red Cross clinic and ambulance service in Puerto Aventuras has again been delayed by the Red Cross while it searches for a guarantee of 75,000 pesos a month ($4,995 USD) to operate the facility. The PA outpost was closed without notice last December for lack of resources. The Red Cross had opened a much larger facility in Playa del Carmen (Pop. heading for 200,000) that required much more of its resources.

A handshake agreement with the Red Cross was made earlier this year by members of an ad hoc panel of Puerto Aventuras resort residents and Colonos administration who guaranteed 25,000 pesos a month to cover half the salaries of four paramedics and two doctors (all earning the same amount) in exchange for promptly reopening the facility based in the poblado. Two deadlines have since passed and the facility remains closed.

Horacio Moreno, RC director in Playa, told the local press during the launching of a new ambulance in Playa last week, that the Red Cross was intending to negotiate with Puerto Aventuras hotels such as Hard Rock, Barcelo and Omni to up the ante. The Red Cross needs the 75,000 pesos monthly to operate the outpost. Moreno said the reopening depends on the success of negotiations with the hotels.

Prepare the pool for summer! WeRWater has everything you need!

Billionaire’s PA visit generates

talk of Phase 4 investment

By Staff
   The rumor mill was churning so fast last week over the appearance of a gleaming 390 foot yacht in Fatima Bay off Omni Beach that it caused a mental short circuit in many a talking head.

Forget that the yacht, which looks part submarine and part landing-craft, anchors off many more shores than just Puerto Aventuras. It visited Cozumel before coming here and who knows where else in the Caribbean and world it will next get tongues wagging.

Here in Puerto, the 17-foot draft ship set off a buzz that Russian billionaire owner Andrey Melnichenko just might be here to invest in Phase 4, since it was earlier rumored that Russians were negotiating here to construct a hotel near the caleta. Who better to ask if that theory holds water than developer Arq. Roman Rivera Torres. His answer was something to grin about:

“I WISH!!!!!!” he replied.

Then he explained, “Mr. Melnichenko and his wife, Aleksandra, are traveling the Mexican Caribbean coast and within their itinerary they marked Puerto Aventuras as a place to visit and also as an adequate place to form a base from which to visit the area,” Rivera said last Thursday.

“He was supposed to be here only a day and a half. The seas are calm, weather couldn’t be better and he may be staying a couple of days. There is no interest in investing. As a matter of fact, with people like him, what they appreciate more is their privacy and anonymity, so we are respecting their space fully.”

Casual observers near the Omni reported seeing a huge door open on the side of the ship and a tender come out of it like from a garage, skip over the bay and deposit passengers into waiting limousines on shore.

Melnichenko has an estimated fortune of around $11 billion. The Yacht, the sixth largest in the world when it was launched in 2008 and now reportedly out of the top ten, has a crew of 37, a helipad forward, a custom made covered tender, an open tender and two rescue tenders in the beamy 61-foot garage. It can cruise at 22 mph for 16 days before its 200,000-gallon diesel fuel tank registers empty. It’s smooth and untraditional bow design leaves little bow wake even at 29 knots.

Melnichenko is a reputed mathematics prodigy. He owns more than 90 percent of Eurochem, a top world producer of mineral fertilizers; the Siberian Coal Energy Co., a major world producer; and the Siberian energy Co. known as OOO, Siberia’s leading power generator.

His wife, Aleksandra, is a former Siberian model and pop-singer. Melnichenko was born in 1972 and once was among Forbes’ “under 40” billionaire’s club. He graduated from the Plekhanov Russian Economic University.

Keep your property dry this summer! Call Definitive Solutions

EASTER SUNDAY is April 5 … LABOR DAY  is May 1 in Mexico… CENSUS TAKERS from the Institute of National Statistics and Geography (Inegi) are in Puerto Aventuras to March 27. Personnel in uniform and carrying identity papers will do the polling randomly. Anyone with doubts when contacted by a census taker can call local Security 984-873-5128 or Inegi directly 1-800-111-4634…  SPANISH CLASSES at Latitude 20: Call Gloria Contreras at cel: 984-108-3517 for information… Falling back in love at our age. Oh, why not? – Join Professor Emeritus Jim White at 10 a.m. March 31 in the Colonos meeting room. Prof. Jim White has published scientific data on how to enliven a loving relationship and add years to your life at the same time.… SEASIDE ROTARY is an English speaking Rotary Club that services the Municipality of Solidaridad. The club meets at 12;30 p.m. Tuesdays at the SOHO Bistro in Playa del Carmen. Meetings are open to the public and visits from visiting Rotarians and anyone interested in doing good work to support our local community are encouraged to attend… APRIL FOOL’S DAY is next Wednesday, April 1, when folks and even institutions like the news media play practical jokes…

 

 

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Dancers, golf course venue

please ballet aficionados

The Coppelia’s Ballet Co. of Playa del Carmen performed on the grounds of the Puerto Aventuras Golf Club last Saturday to an appreciative crowd
of 300. Children of the PA colegio had dancing parts in the demanding Swan Lake production and were applauded for their performance.

Thank you to Escuela Profesional De Danza Y Artes for providing a wonderful evening of entertainment. The Company’s production of "Swan Lake" was magnificent. Congratulations to the dancers who were excellent, from the lead ballerina to the young jesters. The music, costumes,and lighting were amazing and all added to the experience.

Also a big thank you to the Golf Club for allowing the production to take place on the golf course. The setting, with the pond in the foreground, could not have been more perfect for Swan Lake. Even the weather cooperated with a lovely breeze to keep us cool and mosquito free. Well done.  (Photo by Gayle Sandholm, review by Deanne Sandholm)

Briefly Noted…

A new ban on conch fishing was implemented last week in Quintana Roo closing the fishery until 2017. Remember that complaint about fishing for the mollusk in Fatima Bay, Puerto Aventuras, was registered with the Colonos a few weeks ago and a suspect identified. Violation of the rule carries fines and jail time… A Patrol Car and a golf cart are new additions to the Puerto Aventuras Security Force as the result of a renewed 2-year contract with the security company. Security Chief Jesus Galdeano said the car will be used mostly for night patrols, particularly along fencing, while the golf cart will make night runs on the golf course, which can be used as escape routes by thieves at night… The Red Cross is building a new outpost in Puerto Morelos as Puerto Aventuras awaits reopening of its local Red Cross facility and ambulance service… Cancun hotels say they are full up with domestic and foreign reservations for the Spring Break and Easter… Mild contamination was found in 30 percent of Quintana Roo’s cenotes and fresh water in “permissible” amounts, reports Conagua, the national water commission. It also reported that Q. Roo water is among the cleanest nationally… A bio-diversity agreement between Q. Roo and the federal Commission on Bio-diversity has been signed, opening the way for an integrated conservation strategy and sustainable use of natural resources… Eight Mexican citizens visiting the Bardo Museum in Tunisia when it was attacked by terrorists, escaped unharmed, the Mexican government has reported. The raid left 19 people dead and 24 injured… The National Housing Fund for Workers has approved a loan limit subsidy for 15,000 homes in 2015. Construction of subsidized homes continues in Puerto Maya as population there grows… Federal authorities have been conducting investigations in Merida since they arrested the leader of the Knights Templar drug cartel there last month. This week they repossessed a house under construction while investigating a female suspect with links to the cartel. Keeping the Yucatan free of drug violence is paramount in sustaining the touristy Yucatan as a safe place to be… – Sort of sea sick  were nearly a dozen vacationers in Playa with allergies from the voluminous amounts of kelp floating ashore…

The Mail Bag……

On both sides of golf access issue

image Dear Editor:
   This comment is in regards to the access of the golf course. My husband and I are on both sides of this issue. We are members of the golf course and we also have a dog. We bought our condo in part because of the golf course, the beautiful view it affords us. We have lived on golf courses for many years and realize the expense and work involved in maintaining a business, because first and foremost, it is a business.

We pay a membership fee every year to be able to play uninterrupted golf on this beautiful course. Our dog longs to run the greens and dig in the sand traps, but we know that allowing her to do that would take away the enjoyment from the people who have paid to play. When we first moved into our condo, the greens were an open house to man’s best friend. At the end of the day, the dogs would be turned out without supervision onto the golf course to leave their calling cards behind.

I say this only because I have been a victim while out playing a round of golf. I fully believe that the intention of the owners of the golf course is not to make life difficult for those who access the golf course, but to accommodate those who pay for the use of a well maintained golf course, which, as stated earlier, is a business.

While I would love to be able to walk my Chacha on the golf course and let her run wild, I know that I am paying to maintain this course and would hope that the fees we pay do not rise because people do not respect another’s property. Also, while I realize that the golf course offers a short route for people needing to get to places, it is a dangerous venture especially for those who are not paying attention and may get hit with golf balls, which, I am sorry to say, I have done.

There are risks to living on a golf course. These should have been pointed out to those who bought property or who are renting. There will be stray balls, but then again that is a price for the view of a beautifully landscaped golf course. We have had balls land in our backyard and pool, but we knew this when we brought our condo. I have never seen a golf course afford the leniency for people and pets as this one has. I commend them for this. They have been trying to make this work for everyone. I think it is time for us to help also.

We need to put the shoe on the other foot and see this issue from their side. Would you want people invading your space and leaving you with the cleanup? How long would that last?

Signed/Linda Williams

What about caleta access?

Dear Editor:

I allow myself this email because there are points to discuss regarding the Caleta access. I wanted to go last Sunday, March 22 around 12:15, but the guard would not let me pass in my golf car. So I went there by foot, and as usual, there were cars parked in front of the access to the Caleta. Therefore, as a resident of Puerto Aventuras, why do I have to go there by foot and apparently non-resident families can get there by car? Am I missing something?

Why is access to the Caleta gated? Knowing that access to Phase 4 is prohibited during working hours, which is quite normal for security reasons, why not allow access to the caleta on Saturday and Sunday afternoon? I hope you can answer my questions.

Best Regards,

Signed/Valerie B.

(Ed.Note: All of Phase 4 remains private property of the developer, including the roads, until such time as the roads are deeded to the Colonos and become public. The developer, by his own good graces, has allowed access to Phase 4 to walkers and bikers and had banned cars and cart traffic because of abuses to the caleta area by occupants of some of those vehicles. If some cars are being allowed, only the individual guard would be able to say why some are favored on his watch and not others. Perhaps this could be investigated by the developer. As to the new gate at the caleta entrance, that is the private property of an owner who is preparing to build there. Access to the caleta has become more adventuresome using the nicely prepared paths through the conservation area. The paths are wide enough to accommodate walking a bicycle, or lock the bicycle at one of the two shady palapa entrances.}

RC paramedics offer advice in Akumal

Dear Editor:
   Here is the latest update from the Red Cross regarding the Akumal Ambulance activity over the last 2 months. The paramedics have treated 27 emergencies, including a number of serious injuries, several near drownings, and sadly, 2 deaths by drowning. 

I attended the opening of the annual Red Cross collection month last week, and I spoke to the paramedics who have been working in Akumal. They gave me some really important feedback relating to our policies on how the snorkel tours are run.  They referred to the man who died last week in Akumal Bay. 

He was a 77 year old man who was on a snorkel tour. He had had 2 heart attacks previously, but was not questioned about his physical well-being prior to being taken on the tour.   He had a third heart attack while in the water, and the paramedics tell me that the snorkel guide, who was guiding a very large group, did not actually notice that the man was in trouble until it was much too late. The paramedics and life guards tried to resuscitate the man on the beach, but too much time had passed and there was nothing that they could do.

The paramedics suggest that there should be some sort of medical screening process prior to snorkel tour participants entering the water in the same way that divers are asked to complete a brief medical questionnaire.  If any health risks are flagged in the questionnaire, then the snorkel tour participant should be asked to seek medical advice prior to entering the water.   The client may be upset that they cannot snorkel on their chosen day, but in the event of a medical complication, the chance of survival is much higher on the shore.  This is very important, and the responsibility of the community of Akumal, to look after the safety and well-being of visitors.

The second point that they raised is the size of the tour groups.  How many snorkelers can one guide safely monitor while in the water? Would a life have been saved last week if the group was smaller and the guide was able to spot the problem and start the rescue process more quickly?

But to end on a positive note, the Red Cross paramedics have been able to successfully help 25 people over the last 8 weeks, which brings us to almost 50 medical emergencies attended in the last 3 months.  We also have a newer ambulance stationed in Akumal further improving paramedic response times.   With spring break here, and Semana Santa on the way, I’m sure that you’ll agree that we need the Akumal Ambulance in place now more than ever.

We are continuing to fund-raise for the paramedics’ salaries and ambulance running costs, and to ensure that we can keep this service in our community. Plaza Ukana very generously donates accommodations for the paramedics at night time to ensure that they are centrally located at all times.   The Akumal Comedy Festival (April 14-18, 2015) is the next large fundraiser event.  100% of the proceeds from the Festival will go directly to the Red Cross and the money from the Akumal shows will be used to pay for the Akumal Ambulance.    Despite the fund-raising efforts, there is still nowhere near enough money coming in from our community to pay for the ambulance.  The money being used to pay for the Akumal ambulance at the moment is money that has been raised through Tulum.

If you would like to support the ambulance project by way of a donation, you can do so via Paypal or with your credit card.   This goes directly to the Tulum Red Cross PayPal account and the donation is labelled "Akumal Ambulance"  https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=ZAAD79BPGYG4U

Please contact the Red Cross directly for donating by bnk:Cruz Roja Tulum – Lic. Verónica Madrid Pérez   admontulum@live.com.mx  984 151 7553 / 984 176 1217

Signed/Marieke Brown

 

Nature Watch…

Sargassum invasion unwelcomed,

but it has its helpful benefits 

   The Riviera Maya has seen massive amounts of Sargassum washing up on its white, sandy beaches over the past few months. Significant amounts of the algae have been reported across the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico this year. Workers along the beaches here in Puerto Aventuras have been working unusually long hours trying to keep ahead of the near daily arrival of new algae. It seems uncertain how much longer the Sargassum will continue to find the beaches of the Riviera Maya.

This leafy brown algae floats in the open ocean and moves by ocean currents and winds. Clumps of it gravitate toward more temperate, tropical waters and into shallower waters like coral reefs. The name comes from Portuguese sailors calling it salgazo, a small grape, with reference to the grape-like, gas-filled berries that keep the algae afloat and promote photosynthesis. It is also known as sea holly. Sargassum is found mostly in the Atlantic Ocean and is highly concentrated in the Sargasso Sea, a 1.5-million-square-mile circle of ocean filled with large areas of the free-floating algae.

It may provide a small attitude boost to Puerto Aventuras beachgoers these days by knowing some of its benefits. These large drifts of Sargassum provide habitat for a large variety of marine life, offering shelter, food, and survival. Numerous young fish as well as turtles, eels, crabs, shrimps and various invertebrates find a safe haven in these floating islands.

And if you like catching one of those large gamefish here in Puerto, it may help to know that with the presence of all of these young fish in one location, large game fish often hover around, awaiting their shot at the young prey. Other benefits include gathering it after it finds its way to the shoreline and using it as a nutrient-rich fertilizer and compost. In other areas, it has been left in place to prevent beach erosion and promote beach restoration. Knowing these benefits may help some see the sargassum with a little less sarcasm!. (Story and Photo by Gayle Sandholm)

Local turkeys “near threatened”

from loss of habitat and hunting

  

   By Staff
   During a recent recreational conversation, the topic of birding worked its way into the debate when one person asked if there was a bird indigenous to the Yucatan, as opposed to transients from elsewhere.

There is and it’s called the “ocellated turkey.” First things first. “Ocellated” refers to the “ocelus”, a simple eye in invertebrates, but, where some turkeys are involved, to the eye-like markings on their tail feathers, therefore, ocellated turkey.

The males weigh an average 11 – 16 pounds, and females about 7 pounds, which, along with the “eyespots”on their tail feathers, separate this indigenous Yucatan specie from is bigger northern cousin, the wild turkey, which also makes itself at home in small northern cities as well as forests.

The ocellated turkey is found in all the Yucatan’s roughly 50,000 square miles that includes northern Belize and Guatemala. Not much distinguishes the ocellated turkey from the wild relative up north. Neither is it closely affiliated with any major historic event as the wild turkey’s relationship with the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. They just spend most of their time on the ground foraging and will run, rather than fly, away from perceived danger, though they fly well for short distances, using their wings to fly up into high trees to roost.

Almost everybody knows what a turkey looks like, but to differentiate, the ocellated bird has a blue head and a mix of bronze and iridescent green body feathers. It can’t be mistaken for another bird. The female lays 8 to 15 eggs in a concealed ground nest and after birth the birds travel in families and prefer to remain out of sight. Nonetheless, it is a “near threatened species” as the result of habitat loss and hunting.

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‘Access’- – a word that divides

Deadline passes as Red Cross

fails to reopen PA facility

Agency launches annual drive today

 

By Staff
The Red Cross has fallen short of its expected March 15 re-opening of the Puerto Aventuras clinic and when it will open is anybody’s guess, to the chagrin of local fund-raisers. “I won’t raise any more money until it opens,” said one woman who manned a Red Cross booth last Sunday. Colonos GM Armando Rincon said he was told yesterday during a phone conversation with the Red Cross director in Playa del Carmen, that issues remain with the Hard Rock Hotel and Barcelo. What the issues are was not explained.

The RC outpost in the Poblado closed without warning in December after the new clinic and ambulance center in Playa del Carmen opened amidst a shortfall of funds for its greatly expanded space and medical services. It necessitated the closure of outlying centers like PA.

In the interim, a boat crewman who suffered severe burns in a Puerto Aventuras boat fire had to wait 30 minutes for an ambulance. Fortunately, several visitors vacationing in Club Aventuras nearby the accident had the medical knowledge and the will to care for him until a private ambulance arrived.

The incident underscored the need for faster response time of ambulances in Puerto Aventuras. This, in turn, motivated several resort residents to find out from Red Cross what was needed to reopen the PA center and then went about soliciting the funds from several generous contributors.

The Red Cross’s inability to meet the March 15 opening date disillusioned Puerto Aventurans who had quickly raised sufficient funds mostly from private donors to cover half the cost of salaries for four emergency technicians and two doctors, all of whom receive the same salary. In addition, the Colonos board agreed to use some of its funds as a loan to guarantee payment to the Red Cross.

In other Red Cross news, the Playa del Carmen branch was scheduled to send two people to Mexico City this week to take possession of a new $750,000-peso ambulance from Mexican President Enrique Pina Nieto, courtesy of the Azteca Foundation.

But even with this new unit, said Teresa Jiminez Rodriguez, president of the women volunteers, the division needs one more ambulance to efficiently provide pre-hospital services in the district which is heading toward a population exceeding 160,000. She said half the cost of the new ambulance and equipment will be borne by the local Red Cross budget. She called upon residents and businesses to give generously this year to the annual Red Cross Drive that begins today (March 19) with a goal of a million pesos.

Unfortunately, the Red Cross closure of the PA clinic and ambulance service without notice and the failure to meet their own deadline for reopening it has some big donors balking at continued donations to a service that isn’t there.

Jiminez Rogriguez said this year, more than ever, contributions are needed to support the new, larger central clinic in Playa del Carmen, which offers consultations in general medicine, dental services, laboratory testing, x-ray, ultrasound tests, and specialty care in pediatrics and gynecology. Much of the equipment in the new Playa clinic was provided through the efforts of several Rotary Club International members living in Puerto Aventuras and Seaside Rotary in Playa del Carmen.

In disturbing allegations, a local newspaper alleges there is collusion between 066 operators and profit-making ambulance services that are given first choice to   emergency/accident cases involving foreigners from whom private responders can yield a large service fee. The newspaper claims the Red Cross is called by 066 mostly for minor cases of fallen drunks and the like. The Red Cross does not have a fee for ambulance services but hopes those who can afford a donation for the service will do so.

In addition to raising funds to assure the re-opening of the local Red Cross clinic and ambulance service in Puerto Aventuras, Timothy Howard, who heads an informal panel that includes Colonos GM Armando Rincon, John Klug and Martin Wohnlich, said two private ambulances that charge for services are located at the Hard Rock Hotel and Barcelo. Phone numbers for all ambulance services locally are:

Red Cross ambulance: 065; Puerto Aventuras Security: 873-51-28 and 51-73. Tell them what your emergency is, and whether you want the Red Cross ambulance or a private ambulance. If a private ambulance, they will send the one which is closest. Ambulance at the Barceló: 044-984-876-22-50; Ambulance at the Hard Rock: 044-998-214-41-32.

 

Food fest delights 400 fans

with appetites and a thirst

 

By Staff
Twenty-five chefs served up international food samplings to some 400 people at Puerto Aventuras’ 5th annual International Food Festival held Sunday on the campus of the Colegio.

While a colorful mariachi band served up lively Mexican music – food for the ears – the chefs went international in dishing out samples of foodstuffs like paella from Brazil, sushi from Japan, carne asada from Tamaulipas, mole poblano from Oaxaca, avocado key lime pie from Brazil, madras chicken from India, pulled pork from everywhere, embutidos from France and other samples that kept diners busy between snippets of jovial conversation for several hours, washing the foodstuffs down with various beverages and topping it off with gelato.

There was something special for everyone. Paamul Jack, for example, enjoyed the sushi while Marilyn Vernon was partial to the paella and her diplomatic husband, Joe, who thought a moment, replied, “…all of it was good,” a sentiment shared by most diners.

Among the many volunteers who helped make the day a gastronomic and socially delightful day among friends and neighbors were Elaine Darroch and Lucie Sellors who manned the Red Cross fund-raising booth (within eyesight of the Red Cross ambulance parked nearby) and familiar Colonos figures like GM Armando Rincon, president Jorge Kaufer and coordinator Carlos Quinones among others.

Then there was the effervescent couple Daniele and perpetually animated Lucia Gracis, he slamming two pot lids together as one would cymbals and she dancing with anyone who dared match their nimble moves with hers. Both were hawking a raffle for their medal-winning Youth Sailing Club that’s been putting Puerto Aventuras on the national sailing map. There was joy too watching a young girl who won a bicycle in the raffle who couldn’t wait to pedal it happily around the campus, and listening to singers Errol the Entertainer, a regular at Latitude 20 Restaurant, his sound mixer Shannon Rachynski who gifted the crowd with fast paced C&W and Pam Miller, who filled the campus with lilting R&B tunes from the big band era.

The day belonged to the unsung volunteers who manned the steam tables, charcoal grills and boiling pots serving the diners and to other volunteers who placed the tents and hauled the tables and chairs to assure enough shade for almost everyone, and to those chefs who represented various hotels, restaurants and “home cooking.”

All those efforts would be wasted were it not for a robust turnout of local residents like Alberto Rivera Arguelles, his wife, Gabriela, their children and their children’s friends, making the day a family affair and some residents from Paamul, Akumal and Playa del Carmen who helped keep a PA tradition alive.

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City initiates seizure of Paamul,

PA land for unpaid property tax

The municipality of Solidaridad is in the process of seizing four waterfront properties in Paamul, Puerto Aventuras, Xcalacoco and Punta Maroma for non-payment of property taxes dating back to 2010. Owners of the properties, on vacant seaside lots, owe an aggregate 18 million pesos, said Gabriel Castro, the municipal treasurer.

He said one of the properties, known as “Conchita” in Paamul, has already been repossessed and will go on the auction block in 45 days if the owner(s) do not make arrangements with the municipality to negotiate payment. He said the longer owners wait to make payment the more it costs with added penalties.

Castro did not identify the other properties since they have not yet been repossessed. He warned that the remaining properties will also be seized in 45 days from date of notice if owners do not contact his office to negotiate a payment plan.

 

COPELLIA’S BALLET Company presents “Swan Lake” Saturday, March 21st in the Puerto Aventuras Golf Club. Tickets available at Colegio Puerto Aventuras and Copellia’s Academy. Pre-sale cost is $150 pesos or $200 pesos on the day of the event… BIRD WALK  Wednesday, Mar. 25 from  3:30-5:30 p.m.  Join two, local, amateur birders on a leisurely bird walk around Puerto.  Comfortable shoes, water, binoculars if you have.  Meet at the tennis courts near the Golf Course (See letter to the editor below.) CENSUS TAKERS from the Institute of National Statistics and Geography (Inegi) are in Puerto Aventuras to March 27. Personnel in uniform and carrying identity papers will do the polling randomly. Anyone with doubts when contacted by a census taker can call local Security 984-873-5128 or Inegi directly 1-800-111-4634…  COOKING CLASS – Latitude 20 cooking class is held at 10 a.m. Fridays. All are welcome to join in … SPANISH CLASSES at Latitude 20: Call Gloria Contreras at cel: 984-108-3517 for information… Falling back in love at our age. Oh, why not? – Join Professor Emeritus Jim White at 10 a.m. April 8 in the Colonos meeting room. Prof. Jim White has published scientific data on how to enliven a loving relationship and add years to your life at the same time.… SEASIDE ROTARY is an English speaking Rotary Club that services the Municipality of Solidaridad. The club meets at 12;30 p.m. Tuesdays at the SOHO Bistro in Playa del Carmen. Meetings are open to the public and visits from visiting Rotarians and anyone interested in doing good work to support our local community are encouraged to attend…

 

Editorial…

‘Access’ is a word that anguishes,

divides cultures, communities

Private property vs. free-rein models abound

The day after the PA golf course ordered dump trucks laden with stone and soil to rumble along a fairway and deposit their loads to block a roughly 25-yard short-cut across a private wooded lot, a golfer wandered onto the private property of Esmeralda Condos asking residents if they had a net to retrieve his golf ball – just one of many – that landed in the condo pool.

Residents didn’t have a net. So the golfer got down on his stomach alongside the pool and tried to reach the ball with whatever he had at hand. Then another golfer appeared from the wood line chastising the first golfer for his (expletive) time-consuming effort to retrieve “a one dollar ball.”

What the golfers didn’t know is that about a half-hour earlier there were three children playing in that pool who could have been struck by the ball and seriously injured or killed, as happens now and then around golf courses. It’s a chance that course-side residents take with eyes wide open.

Where’s the compromise?

The golfers also didn’t know condo residents were moody over the recent blocking of a path used quietly by young and older condo residents without cars to reach Centro Comercial, where many go to shop for food, gelato, visit the Colonos office, vegetable stand, medical clinic, veterinarian and other businesses. The path also was used by some workers and bikers who first travel a few yards along the edge of the golf course, not across it, to “access” the path. Conversely, the golf course contends trespassers sometimes impede golf play, according to complaints made to course manager Jose Luis Ortega.

“When I saw that unsightly mound of dirt blocking the path,” said one older female biker about to set out for a ride, “it took the joy out of my day.” Such is Paradise. Not everybody has “access” through the Golden Gate. “Muy malo,” said one construction worker shaking his head while climbing over the mound. He offered to carry the lady’s bike over the dirt. She declined.

It is a given that the PA golf course has the private-property right to block all public access – even to paying golfers if it so chose – in order to maintain its property in good and unobstructed condition. Short-cut bikers had worn grooves in some of the fairways by repeated use. Dog walkers and dog owners use the property as poop parks while respectful recreational joggers and walkers generally do little damage, says course management.

Teens in carts have used the fairways as a race track and demolition derby in the past. Since the above trespassers confound the maintenance effort – and in some instances the golf game itself – the course management has taken a harder line lately by blocking “access” with signs, public pronouncements, fences, prickly brush, mounds of dirt… all of which hard-core trespassers ignore and eventually get around anyway. In the dirt mound case, brush and allegedly barbed wire have been added.

Then again, owners of private house lots also have blocked access from the golf course through their property over the course of several years, actions that have mostly served to shift routes by trespassers to other private properties. It doesn’t end the problem. In the case of the dirt mound, Ortega says the course acted on a complaint from a property owner on Yalku who didn’t much care for the disruption when bikers and walkers exit onto Yalku – a public street.

Unspoken compromise.

That being said, residents of the affected condo complex, as example, view their limited use of the course as a compromise. They say they don’t complain about golfers who trespass on their property, send golf balls pinging off patios and windows or plunging into the pool. They bear it in return for using a tiny portion of the course to access the short-cut to Centro. The path itself is a miniscule, unobtrusive trail through a wooded lot that is for sale.

In some instances, the course has blocked short-cuts across fairways used mostly by Chedraui shoppers, car-less guests, construction and hotel employees to “access” the main gate. In some instances, the more aggressive workers and other trespassers simply go around the impediments by using nearby private condo and villa properties. We live in a small society by agreement here and obviously there is disagreement and disappointment on the issue of “access.”

“Access” then is a word with problematic connotation. War veterans and the poor seek “access” to health care, entrepreneurs cajole bankers for “access” to loans, high school graduates vie for “access” to the better colleges, social climbers desire “access” to the next rung on the ladder and sunbathers want access to the sea, ad infinitum.

Mining possible options

Mankind is working toward populating other planets, creating an “earth star” using plentiful hydrogen to generate usable energy on earth. Scientists are devising a human heart of human cells on a 3D printer and other advances to benefit the human condition, all of which may be less difficult to do than to resolve myriad “access” problems in Puerto Aventuras, perhaps the result of myopic vision in the first place.

Rather than solutions, it may be time to consider compromise options, to think out of the box. Puerto Aventuras is facing a traffic and parking challenge as buildout approaches. Creating safe bicycle lanes along all the existing main roads – similar to the exemplary bike strips and sidewalks along Phase 4 roads and on Bahia Yanten – might end that particular access problem and also mitigate current and future vehicle gridlock by accommodating and encouraging safe, smooth usage of bicycles as a less expensive, environmentally sound and healthier option than cars, fences and disagreeable dirt mounds and barbed wire that could injure trespassers.

Other options might include free shuttle buses supported by business/hotels/Colonos deployed during commuting hours to and from the resort to the Poblado, Puerto Maya and Chedraui supermarket for workers and shoppers. Similarly, shuttle buses could also be employed on Sundays to Xpuha or other public beaches  for PA villagers currently concerned about potential fees at the beach in Akumal. They could also agitate for municipal swimming pools or create a think-tank to incubate other doable options. Pelican space is available for anyone wishing to propose doable possibilities aimed at diminishing the local “access” conundrum.

The idea is to make existing main streets so  accommodating to pedestrians and bikers fearful of big buses, noisy trucks and  speeding cars that they simply won’t want to use the golf course because better options exist. Besides…barbed wire in Paradise?

(See story under Commerce Corner in this edition to learn how the “access” syndrome is also confounding life in Akumal, and more on this PA subject in the letters section below.)

 

British national killed while

walking on 307 near Paamul

Another highway fatality was reported last week on the northbound lane of Highway 307 when a pedestrian identified as a British national and allegedly drunk, tried to cross the highway on a curve about 6 p.m. between Puerto Aventuras and Paamul, say the police. The driver of the car did not stop but was apprehended at the police filtro.

Emergency number 066 reported receiving a call that a person was walking along the highway apparently in a drunken state. By the time police arrived, the man had already been struck by a car and his lifeless body in the road. Police cordoned off the area to prevent other cars from running over the body. Police identified the victim as Reece Kiffin, 23, who was a guest at the Hard Rock Hotel.

Shortly afterward, police at the filter saw a car with a broken windshield, missing fender and traces of blood. The driver admitted hitting a person on the highway and driving away. The driver said he was heading north and struck the victim just before reaching the curve at Paamul where the victim evidently stumbled onto the roadway.

 

Oxxo teaming up with bank

for cash withdrawals at stores

Oxxo says it is planning to team up with BBVA Bancomer in a plan to make cash disbursements at stores in Quintana Roo, but when and precisely where it will take effect among its many outlets was not clear. The Oxxo in PA already takes cel phone payments.

The announcement said the service will be offered in about 12,000 stores nationally. Quintana Roo reportedly has 290 outlets, with around 150 in Cancun alone.

Using the bank debit card, clients will be able to withdraw 1000 pesos per transaction from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for a transaction fee of 12 pesos, the announcement said. No purchase will be necessary to withdraw funds.

FEMSA Comercial, parent of Oxxo, said it has been aware that some of its stores are located in areas where financial institutions and services are not readily available and hopes to remedy that somewhat with this plan. That date of implementation was not announced.

 

Hard Rock Hotel takes over

18-hole Playcar golf course

Plans youth academy, night practice

The Hard Rock Hotel announced at a press conference last week it is managing the former Playacar Golf Course in Playa del Carmen and plans to offer night practice, a youth academy and international tournaments under the Hard Rock brand. Rene Malacara, manager of the Hard Rock Hotel and the golf course, lives in Puerto Aventuras with his family.

The Hard Rock Riviera Golf Club, as it is now called, aims to promote international golf tourism, particularly among Canadians and Koreans, both of whom already have a presence at the Playacar club. Malacara said special packages and rates are available to residents of Quintana Roo. The course is one of about 15 in Quintana Roo, has 65 employees and is located in the gated Playacar community. Meanwhile, the Association of Caribbean Golf Courses intends to include Riviera Maya courses in its future programs and promotions.

 

The Mail Bag…

Dear Editor:

Bird walk was informative

The bird walk on Wednesday led by Gayle Sandholm was terrific. We saw lots of birds, learned many things (termite trails on trees!) and met new friends.  It would be great to include a botanist on future walks. We saw two parrots feasting on a termite nest near the tennis courts.  The pair is quite happy! Note that they go into the nest! This is a terrific idea and we hope it continues.  Thanks to Sandholm for generously sharing his knowledge. We don’t have his contact information so could you please convey our appreciation? Thank you.

Signed/ Bob and Judy Gore

Dear Editor

Fences bring disillusionment

I enjoy walking and biking here in Puerto Aventuras and choose not to have a car or cart during the months I spend here each year. I bike to the caleta regularly and walk to the local market, to Centro for food or the beach, around town to observe birds, to the main gate for groceries or the colectivo.

I meet children going to and from school, lots of tourists also enjoying the walk, and locals from the poblado whose good work makes our lives much easier. Recently, my life here became much more problematic. I know I am not alone, especially for those of us on Bahia Xaak.

Attempts to alter walking and biking traffic with large fences, barbed wire, thorn bushes and rock-dirt piles has led to more frustration, anger and mistrust of golf course officials. The dangers of riding on busy streets, especially for young school children, and the added distances for less abled persons only add to the frustration.

Over the past six years, I have observed some of the basic problems in the development of the community. These include no access routes for walkers or bikers in several locations and little public access/green spaces in or around private property.

I hope any public discussion of important access issues would include these more basic development concerns. Claiming private property, golfer rights or security issues and adding fences to deny access will only lead to more distrust, disillusionment and anger within this community.

Signed/Gayle Sandholm

Dear Editor:

Blood recipient thanks friends

We have been informed the second blood donation has been successfully completed. We are so blessed to have such good friends and acquaintances here in the Riviera Maya. One donation was from Akumal, the other from Paamul. Thank you seems inadequate, but we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your efforts and concern.

Signed/Dave and Linda Gosslin

(Ed Note: This letter was addressed to Donna Carey and copied to the Pelican.)

 

 

Commerce Corner…

 

 

Embattled Akumal stakeholders

respond to critics of new vision

Say ecology cannot sustain the free-rein era

(Ed.Note: The following was written by Laura Bush Wolfe, whose family pioneered Akumal. She is responding to critics of proposals intended to levy fees and moderate free-rein activity in the community to hopefully reverse expanding ecological damage and to sustain natural assets that have made Akumal a desired tourist destination.)

“Akumal Yesterday and Today”

“Akumal is the oldest tourism development on the coastline, before Cancun, before Playa del Carmen, before all of the Riviera Maya hotels, and it has had the LEAST amount of change to it’s Main Bay over the last 40 years, yet because of the surrounding growth in the Riviera Maya, and because Akumal has remained one of the few open private developments on the coastline, it is now experiencing an overload of traffic for a very small bay.

Akumal was developed as a quaint tourist community, with the commercial area on the Main Bay, and North Akumal as a residential area. There was no town, only jungle.

The original vision for Akumal was to receive divers and people that enjoy nature in a unique destination, ‘A special place, for special people,’ people who appreciate simplicity and a concept for vacationing that is distinctly authentic, and culturally true to this unique part of Mexico . The one entrance through the archway was never meant to be able to handle the traffic it has today, with pedestrians coming in and out through the same entrance. This truly presents a danger for public safety.

The tours coming in today are a result of more and more tour operators, cooperatives, independent guides, and transport companies doubling up as snorkel tour guides wanting to take advantage of the “ Swim with the Turtles Experience” while the government stalls on the permits and allows this free- for- all. The property owners will not give up until the government steps in and puts in limits, and decrees protection laws for the turtles and ecosystem.

Misguided opinions

Hotel Akumal Caribe is not in the tour business and yet there is a misguided opinion that my hotel has made millions from the tours that clandestine tour operators, cooperatives and independents sell at the entrance, inside private properties and on federal zone beach. These people approach visitors and guests from all sides to sell their tours, many times telling them that they HAVE to take a tour in order to see the turtles. Many times donning a Dive Shop or Dive Center T shirt in order to look legitimate and mislead visitors.

These operators do not have their own infrastructure, bathrooms, lockers, showers, and areas to give instruction and rules and so they use existing private property infrastructure for their own commercial purposes. The properties provide this infrastructure for visitors, guests and clients, but have no obligation to provide them for outside snorkel tours. The dive shops have this infrastructure for their own clients.

Another major problem that affects everyone is the lack of proper sewage in some areas of Akumal including the Pueblo. For years we have been lobbying for the government to step in and provide sewage for North Akumal and the Pueblo with no success. Everyone has to look after his or her own areas, and no one is looking after the Pueblo’s infrastructure.

Treatment plant non-functional

The government may step in, over time, when the situation is so critical that they won’t be able to turn away. In the meantime the government is satisfied that because they provided a treatment plant when the Pueblo opened up, that it suffices, when only 30% of the houses were hooked up, and now the treatment plant is non- functional and would not even be sufficient for the growth of the pueblo. This is not new to Mexico, as most towns have improper sewage everywhere!

The hotels on the main bay, including Hotel Akumal Caribe, have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to put in their sewage treatment plants and comply with government standards, and yet that same government has not put in a functioning and adequate sewage treatment plant for the Pueblo of Akumal so all those homes, businesses, apartments, and now even hotels in the Pueblo have their sewage seeping into the underground river systems which open up to the ocean, thereby contributing to the death of our reef. But because of its proximity to the bay and the unique karst terrain this is a problem that needs to be addressed immediately.

Finally, it’s ironic that because this destination is so unique on the coastline, being one of the only open beaches for the public to enjoy, it gets all the surrounding visitors to the Riviera Maya coming on tours to the bay and overcrowding the turtles, polluting the water, destroying the coral, and then comfortably getting transferred back to their resorts.

Boats endanger swimmers

Additionally, Akumal has independent fishermen mooring their boats in the bay, which represent 60% of the boats in Akumal Bay. The other 40% are from the two Dive shops. This presents overcrowding for those who want to swim freely along the shoreline, a dangerous situation, and one that we have tried to come to agreements on but with no avail.

We can only hope that those who love Akumal can understand the huge undertaking that the property owners have on their plates. The balance that is needed between development, commercial activity, and overuse, while battling a socio- economic political battle is a delicate one.

The legal issue of having private property bordering federal zone and by law providing access has never been violated. Akumal is and will remain open. Private property has every right by law to mandate how and where the access point to the federal zone is. It also has every legal right to have rules for the use of their private property and to establish limits according to what their infrastructure can handle.

Private property rights

Commercial activity on Federal Zone is only allowed by those that have a “General Use Concession”, and not for street vendors and salesmen. A federal court judge mandated the protection of the private property rights of Centro Ecologico Akumal through municipal police presence on the property. This is indisputable. All documents have been presented and will be presented anytime that it is required in order to establish the legal rights of private property.

There has never been a public beach access decreed by the government on Hotel Akumal Caribe land either. Both properties have the legal paperwork to prove this once again. A referral to a road to the beach (Camino a la Playa) as a reference point is not an indication that it is a Publicly decreed official beach access.

If a certain area has been provided for the public to access the beach, it does not mean it becomes a public government run access. This would be expropriation of private property. It’s the same if your home’s side yard was regularly used by people to get to a major road, or the waterfront, because it was the most direct, but not the only way to get there, the government should not be able to deem it public. The development as a whole must have public beach accesses, which were established in the PDU 20017-2032. (Urban Development Plan)

It’s unfortunate that a destination that has always been open to the public with little or no rules would have the type of local resistance to efforts to establish order that it is experiencing today. When property owners realize that keeping it that way will ruin the bay and therefore the economy of every single user of that bay, it’s their duty, and their right, to bring in order and control. That should not be met with resistance. We should all work together towards this same goal and lobby the government together to achieve the protection the bay needs.

Hotels providing jobs

Change is inevitable, and Akumal Bay is now experiencing the most change in over 40 years. It’s important that everyone understand how important it is to the property owners on the bay to manage it. An all-inclusive 5- star resort is not out to destroy the very bay that provides their ocean front view for their guests.

The two other hotels that have been here for so many years are seeking to upgrade their properties so that their guests continue to enjoy staying there, and enjoy the view of the main bay without seeing its overuse and chaos. These hotels provide jobs for the local community who live in the very town that was created through the need to house the staff from these area businesses.

Work together to succeed

Local independent nautical services have every right to work in the bay, but in an orderly, organized way. Not by standing in the parking lots, at the entrances, and on the beach, hawking their tours. This does not give the destination a good image. All these issues have created unrest and conflict and have broken up the community when it most needs to pull together in the same direction. This is nothing personal against anyone; it’s about protecting Akumal, which makes it a personal mission for me, given that my family has been in Akumal since the early 60’s.

Ultimately, our collective goal should be about working together with new perspectives and new attitudes of cooperation so that Akumal can become a shining example of what a community united can accomplish.”

 

Pelican Free Press Newsletter

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