The annual La Ruta Maya Canoe River Challenge starts on March 8 and the three day event is expected to bring at least one hundred registered canoes at the event. Paddlers from as far north as Canada are expected to join and participate in one of the categories. It is an arduous 169 miles through the winding rivers and historic veins that pump from the heart of the jewel to the Belize City coast. The mayor of the twin towns of San Ignacio and Santa Elena says that a lot of debris from other parts of the country are pushed into the Macal and he has utilized a tractor and a truck to begin to restore the area beneath the Hawkesworth Bridge in time for the three day race.
Earl Trap Mayor San Ignacio/ Santa Elena: “We are here embarking on a general clean up campaign. As you notice we have been taking out the breeze, the muck from the river and making the river bank more safe and more accessible to residents and visitors that want to come and use it to refresh.”
Jose Sanchez: ”Okay so in what ways are you cleaning the area for visitors and in preparation for Ruta Maya?”
Earl Trap Mayor San Ignacio/ Santa Elena: “If you notice we are cleaning the river banks trying to make wider areas for people to come spread their sheets or their tents and prepare for a little BBQ. We are taking out the logs, we are taking out the marass from the river and this is just from this point but further down where the equipments cannot go in we use canoes and a chainsaws to go and clean out the river edge where the breeze has been clinging onto. I mean we had the heavy rains and you know with floods those logs and debris come and they cling onto the river bank. That is what we are trying to clear up and as well we are trying to make the areas more clear and cleaner for the canoes as the canoes will be sailing down.”
Jose Sanchez: “What do you find in the clean up process?”
Earl Trap Mayor San Ignacio/ Santa Elena: “What we have found, we have found bottles, we have found foam plates but I think the foam plates and bottles that we have found along the river edge is mostly garbage that came down during the rainy season but yes people need to be more aware of our environment and stop littering. We found a lot of paper plastics, water pouches, black bags that we normally buy from the shops but those are basically more of what we have been seeing in the river and of course the natural leaves and the limbs that we have been cleaning. We are expecting over 100 canoes to be entering the race this march.”
The expense to clean up the river is funded by the San Ignacio/Santa Elena Town Council. The plan, according to Mayor Trapp is to clean as far as Branch Mouth, where the Macal meets the Mopan and forms the Belize Old River.