Marco Gonzalez Maya Site Project

Marco Gonzalez Maya Site Project

San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, Belize
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Marco Gonzalez Maya Site will be the first Maya ruins to be saved on the island of Ambergris Caye, Belize. Landlocked on the only high ground in the middle of a wetlands on the south end of the island, the site will be reached through dual raised boardwalks from land and water. The Visitors/Educational Center will house a museum of archaeological artifacts, be an educational center for island children to learn about their Maya heritage and accommodate conferences and/or public events. The boardwalk systems will also be used for eco-tours for birding, wetland creatures plus flora and fauna studies.

Raised boardwalks will allow for the natural movement of the local American ...

About You
Contact Information
Title

Ms..

First name

Janet C

Last name

Brown

Your job title

Founder

Name of your organization

Marco Gonzalez Maya Site

Organization type

Non-Profit

Annual budget/currency

Estimate $100,000BZ/$50K US

Mailing address

General Delivery, San Pedro Town, A.C., Belize Central America

Telephone number

+501-226-2059/ 662-2725

Postal/Zip Code

00000

Country
Alternative email address

Alternative email address

Your idea
This will be the address used to plot your entry on the map.
Street Address

General Delivery

City

San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye

State/Province

Belize

Postal/Zip Code

00000

Country
Geotourism Challenge Addressed by Entrant

Quality of tourist experience and educational benefit to tourists , Quality of benefit to residents for the destination , Quality of tourism management by destination leadership , Quality of stewardship of the destination.

Organization size

Small (1 to 100 employees)

Indicate sector in which you principally work

Tourism-related business

Year innovation began

2007

Indicate sector in which you principally work

History, Architecture, Nature, Indigenous people, Adventure, Education, General tourism, General destination stewardship/management.

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Innovation
What is the goal of your innovation? Please describe in one sentence the kind of impact, change, or reform your approach is intended to achieve.

Saving a 2,000 year old Maya site on the island of Ambergris Caye, Belize, by creating a Visitors/Educational Center for tourism.

Please write an overview of your project. Include how your approach supports or embodies geotourism or destination stewardship. This text will appear when people scroll over the icon for your entry on the map located on the competition homepage.

Marco Gonzalez Maya Site will be the first Maya ruins to be saved on the island of Ambergris Caye, Belize. Landlocked on the only high ground in the middle of a wetlands on the south end of the island, the site will be reached through dual raised boardwalks from land and water. The Visitors/Educational Center will house a museum of archaeological artifacts, be an educational center for island children to learn about their Maya heritage and accommodate conferences and/or public events. The boardwalk systems will also be used for eco-tours for birding, wetland creatures plus flora and fauna studies.

Raised boardwalks will allow for the natural movement of the local American Crocodile and aquatic life of the wetlands and mangrove system. The Center will be powered mostly by wind and solar energy, making it as "green" as possible.

This new tourism destination will create new business for tour guides and interest in Maya history of the island.

Explain in detail why your approach is innovative

1. Of 19 recognized Maya sites on Ambergris Caye, Marco Gonzalez is the first to be made into a reserve by the Belizean Government.
2. The innovative idea of access to a proposed Visitors/Educational Center is what caught the attention of Ministries and Belize Tourism Board that finally a way was found to be able to develop the historical site.
3. Education of island children will now be close at hand. Many cannot afford trips to the mainland to visit excavated Maya sites. Therefore, this is an excellent opportunity for them to learn about their roots and "touch" history at the proposed archaeological site.
4. A new tourist destination will enhance visitors exprience to Belize without having to leave the island. The trickle-down effect of business for the tour guides will benefit the entire island.

IDB/Fomin
Si perteneces a un pais de Latinoamerica y el Caribe tienes la oportunidad de presentar tu iniciativa para acceder a fondos para innovaciones en turismo sostenible del BID/FOMIN (para mayor informacion leer la seccion sobre la oportunidad BID/FOMIN en la pagina principal del Desafio).

Deseo postularme.

Si perteneces a un pais de Latinoamerica y el Caribe tienes la oportunidad de presentar tu iniciativa para acceder a fondos para innovaciones en turismo sostenible del BID/FOMIN (para mayor informacion leer la seccion sobre la oportunidad BID/FOMIN en la pagina principal del Desafio).

Consumidores (viajeros), Operadores de Turismo, Grupos comunitarios autóctonos, Atractivos naturales y culturales.

Indica cuales de estas tematicas cubre tu innovacion (elige todas aquellas opciones que apliquen)

Planificación y Gestión de destinos, Profesionalización, buenas prácticas y certificación de servicios turísticos sostenibles.

Impact
Describe the degree of success you have had to date. How do you measure, both quantitatively and qualitatively, the impact on sustainability or enhancement of local culture, environment, heritage, or aesthetics? How has it transformed or contributed to the power of place or demonstrated the sustainability of tourism? How does your approach minimize negative impacts?

Our initial success began in 2007 with community support to save the site from an encroaching developer.. The circle of influence was expanded towards national leaders in the Government of Belize including Minister of Tourism/Aviation & Culture, Belize Tourism Board and Belize Tourism Industry Assoc. By December 2008, the Belize Cabinent dedicated the Marco Gonzalez Maya Site as a National Reserve through the Intitute of Archaeology. We have since gained support from one of the original archaeologists on the site 20+ years ago, and the National Institute of Culture and History.
Until the Visitor’s Education Centre is operational we only have the qualitative measures above, however, the new destination will hold the attention of island visitors. Local tour guides will become stakeholders in the operation by increasing their businesses as well as the community pride embracing local history.
The preservation of Maya history and culture is ensured by this project in an environment that can be enjoyed by both international tourists and local residents. The Marco Gonzalez Maya Site is a historically rich location, completely unique to the island culture in which it was established. Furthermore it is surrounded by ecologically protected mangroves and wetlands full of wildlife, flora and fauna. The Visitor’s Edcuation Centre will be approached by raised boardwalks to conserve nature and minimize the effects of tourism. Both archaelogical tours and eco-tours will be available.

In what ways are local residents actively involved in your work, including participation and community input? How has the community responded to or benefited from your approach?

Volunteerism is a high commitment on this project. A strong volunteer Board of Directors and community members have shared their knowledge and time towards the project. Long time island families are coming forward with their stories, artifacts and support of this initative. Local newspapers have also been supportive with their dissemination of information. Also of importance has been the return of tindividual artifacts originally from the Marco Gonzalez Site.
The Mayor's office of San Pedro Town Council is giving full support of the project

How does your program promote traveler enthusiasm, satisfaction, and engagement with the locale?

Travelers to Ambergris Caye have long know about Maya sites on the island and requested visitation, however none were developed. The Marco Gonzalez Maya Site is the first to be recognized with plans to develop a Visitor’s Education Centre.
International tourists and local school children alike will no longer have to leave the island to visit developed ruins on the mainland. Here the Mayas had a different culture, livelihood and lifestyle than the mainland Maya. The hands-on museum and tours will assist in appreciating this 2000 yr old culture. Eco tours will expand and enrich their experience during their site visit.

Describe how your work helps travelers and local residents better understand the value of the area's cultural and natural heritage, and educates them on local environmental issues.

Marco Gonzalez is landlocked within a wild and beautiful wetlands surrounded by mangrove forest and lagoon. The actual site is identified by the only littoral forest on the island resulting from the Maya occupation. The planned boardwalk system of approach to the site and subsequent Visitor’s Education Center will be over these wetlands so as not to disturb wildlife movement. Tours will include education of both the ancient archaeological location and the richness of nature through eco-tours.
An encroaching resort development has put Marco Gonzalez site at the forefront of saving history and nature on Ambergris Caye.

Sustainability
How is your initiative currently financed? If available, provide information on your finances and organization that could help others. Please list: Annual budget, annual revenue generated, size of part-time, full-time and volunteer staff.

This new project is seeking full development dollars. Total cost is estimated at approximately $1 MIL US. Estimated development costs (in US dollars) are; 1) site access, 2) physical buildings, and 3) operational expenses. Site access routes include two boardwalks; one from the eastern road and one from the western water (with a pier) to the Visitor’s Education Centre at a cost of between $50 000 – $65 000 each. The Centre is estimated at $125 per sq/ft including furnishings, out buildings, thatch and decking for a total of $363 000. Annual operational expenses: personnel (4) $30 000, utilities/office supplies $8100, and staff training $2500. Overruns/unidentified costs included another $500,000.
Revenue will be generated by park entry fees, memberships to the Centre and rental fees for conferences, meetings, weddings and sales of souvenir merchandise. Contributions from government agencies and outside donations will play a big part in operational costs.

Is your initiative financially and organizationally sustainable? If not, what is required to make it so? Is there a potential demand for your innovation?

The potential demand for this innovation is extremely high as a first-of-its-kind on the island. Upkeep of the site is to be funded by the collection of park entrance fees. Further funding is expected from facility rentals for conferences, weddings and educational presentations. Memberships to the reserve will be offered. Tour operators and business people will also become stakeholders of the site by the addition of this new destination. Increased tourism provides increased profits from the potential 'trickle-down effect'. Annual funding will be requested from Belize Tourism Board, San Pedro Town Council and Government of Belize.

What are the main barriers you encounter in managing, implementing, or replicating your innovation? What barriers keep your program from having greater impact?

We see this project as a win-win innovation, to repeat, as a first-of-its-kind on the island. Ambergris Caye is a well known tourist destination for diving, snorkeling and other water activities within the Meso-American Barrier Reef with highly skilled tour operations. Our tour operators promote environmentally conscious attitudes and actions which will continue at the Visitor’s Education Centre in the Marco Gonzalez Maya Site.
Our biggest hurdle at this time is funding; we need funding to develop this new tourism destination and educational facility for our visitors and over 2200 children on the island.

Barriers will broken of non-development of ancient occupation of the Maya. Island pride is very high at this time for the development of the site. Therefore, we see this project as a start of other sites to be reclaimed in the future.
We are seeking your help in hopes that the Marco Gonzalez Maya Site Project will spur an appreciation and respect for the accomplishments of our ancestors who occupied Ambergris Caye for some 1500 years.

What is your plan to expand or further develop your approach? Please indicate where/how you would like to grow or enhance your innovation, or have others do so.

Advertising on websites, local establishments, by Belize Tourism Board at trade shows and Tour Guide Association members will enhance knowledge of the site and visitation.
Future developments include a work-in-progress approach such as:
1) A reconstruction of a Maya platform (Building 12) used for ancient trade and gatherings.
2) International and Belizean archaeological students to assist in future excavation and artifact documentation.
3) A birding platform in the canopy of the littoral forest.
4) Development of kayak tours in the nearby lagoon skirted by mangrove forest.

The Story
What is the origin of your innovation? Tell the Changemakers and media communities what prompted you to start this initiative.

As of 2007, none of the 19 identified Maya sites had been saved or developed on the island of Ambergris Caye. Located on the northeast area of Belize just inside the Meso-American Barrier Reef, the island was home to a large population of Maya's over it's 2,000 years history. It was a trading post of salt, pottery, seafood and jewelry from seashells and conch shells. The land mass was originally part of Mexico until the Maya cut a channel on the north, creating a waterway for a quicker trade route around the island.

Today Ambergris Caye is the most popular destination in Belize for diving the Barrier Reef, fishing, snorkeling, and retirement/investments in real estate along the beautiful coast. Due to these developments, Maya history has not been in the forefront to be saved or developed.

Marco Gonzalez Maya Site is the best known of these sites and has been excavated in the 1980's. However, it was never given reserve status by the Government of Belize inorder to protect the ancient site. In 2007, I began the conversations with local residents, San Pedro Town Council, Department of Archaeology, Minister of Tourism, Aviation & Culture, and finally a presentation to Minister of Natural Resources & Environment at the capitol in Belmopan, Belize. Acceptance of preserving Marco Gonzalez and creating a tourist destination found approval by all parties.

Through the efforts of the government and Dept. of Archaeology, the site has been made into a reserve. This is just in time, as a developer has bought all the property surrounding the site, which put the site in danger of destruction. Community support has been high to have the site saved and see it develop into a place of sustainable tourism and an educational center for over 2200 school children on the island.

Please provide a personal bio. Note this may be used in Changemakers' marketing material.

Ms Jan Brown, formerly of the NASA area south of Houston, Texas. Brown was a visitor to San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, for 15 years before moving there in 2004. Businesswoman, volunteer and community project participant, Brown is now retired from business and devoting fulltime to the Marco Gonzalez project.

Ms. Brown has Belizean Resident status. She is currently Vice President of Ambergris Caye Chamber of Commerce, a member of International Costa Maya Festival, member of Ambergris Caye Citizens for Sustaniable Development, and Chairman/Founder of Marco Gonzalez Maya Site Project.

At age 66, Ms Brown has been the owner of 3 successful businesses in the US, and left the position of Office Manager of the Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce which has over 1800 members. She is past president of both the Bay Area Cancer Society and Seabrook Business Association.

Describe some unique tourist experiences that your approach provides. Be specific; give illustrative examples.

Excavations in 1984-1989 were carbon dated to approximately 300BC. Tourists will be able to visit an ancient site without leaving the island for visits to mainland site destinations. The double entry system (east and west to the site center) will be via raised boardwalks over wetlands to the unique littoral forest highground of Marco Gonzalez site. Along the way, visitors will experience birding, movement of aquatic life through the mangrove forest, studies of the local American crocodile, plus studies of indeginious flora and fauna. A brief history of the Marco Gonzalez site may be found at www.ambergriscaye.com.

The jungle atmosphere of the site area includes such creatures as boa constrictor, four colors of scorpion, tarantula, owls, roseate spoonbill, red-vented woodpecker, Neotropical Cormorant , several varieties of heron and many others. Water and land creatures include turtles, American Crocodile, invertrebrates, frogs and a variety of snakes. Varieties of trees and shrubs include mangroves, poisonwoods, gumbo limbo, palmettos, Thatch Palm to name a few. Lemon grass is interspursed outside areas of flowering native plants including orchid varieties, Madagascar Periwinkle, bromeliads and many others.

Marco Gonzalez site will be a multi-educational center for archaeology, birding and eco tourism.

What types of partnerships or professional development would be most beneficial in spreading your innovation?

Deveopment of the site will benefit university students of archaeology through invitation to be part of new excavations. (The site has been reclaimed by nature since it was first explored in the 1980's.) The actual site sits on high ground surrounded by wetlands. Therefore, those seeking knowledge of the aquatic eco-system will find the mangroves are "Mother Natures Nurseries". A future planned platform in the tree canopy will be an excellent place for aviary study.

Internet links will make Marco Gonzales site known around the world as a unique place to explore a different aspect of Maya lifestyles. The islanders were traders of things unique and well-sought by mainlanders. Items discovered during the first excavations were linked to trading posts as far as Tikal in Guatemala and Lamani in north central Belize.

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