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.