By Government Press Office | BELIZE
BELMOPAN, Belize – New tourism facilities at the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve were completed under the Sustainable Tourism Program (STP) II, a five-year program financed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and executed through the Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Relations. These upgrades meet an important objective of the program: to increase tourism expenditures, employment and income through tourism product diversification.
The facilities at Rio On Pools and Rio Frio Cave were handed over on Friday, March 26, 2021, by Anthony Mahler, minister of tourism and diaspora relations, Orlando Habet, minister of sustainable development, climate change and disaster risk management.
The forestry department will now be responsible to maintain the facilities, as the managing entity in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve.
The project includes facilities at two areas within the reserve: (1) the Rio On Pools enhancement consists of a visitors’ pavilion, a panoramic viewing area, two public restrooms, and changing rooms; (2) the Rio Frio Cave enhancement consists of three picnic palapas, a restroom, and new access trails. Both facilities will now have eco-friendly sewage systems, and the supply of water will be powered by solar energy.
Parking area upgrades are also planned for these two sites under the project. Additionally, informational and directional signs have been installed throughout the reserve, as well as along the Caracol access roads by the Sustainable Tourism Program II. The facilities handed over today were constructed at a cost of BZ$542,323.23.
The STPII has also invested in several consultancies for the Mountain Pine Ridge region, including a Feasibility Study, Environmental Management and Operational Plan, and a Tourism Investment Plan, and a Conservation Management Plan. Future areas of support under the STPII include the development of a maintenance plan for these investments, and a tourism development and visitor management plan for the protected area.
All these investments are intended to improve visitor experience, management, protection, sustainable use, and resiliency of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve.
The Mountain Pine Ridge area presents a significant opportunity for both local and international tourism and has already seen an increase in visitors recently. The area is a recreational tourism hub and gateway to the adjacent protected areas of the Chiquibul and the Caracol Archaeological Reserve.