access tagged posts

Beach Entrance to Akumal Bay: Changes as of March 5, 2018

In light of the recent closure of the beach path through private hotel property and the various rumors and speculations on social media, it’s time to set the record straight. We’ve been getting various questions and have been working on getting the correct answers. Here is what we know so far:

Was the beach path in Akumal closed?

Yes. The illegal path that ran through private property was closed under a federal court order on Monday, March 5. However, there are multiple access points or “Ventanas al Mar” to get to Akumal Bay. (See the Urban Development Plan Akumal 2007-2032, page 98.)

Is Akumal Bay now closed?

No.

Is Akumal Bay now a private beach / privatized bay?

No. The beaches in Mexico are public beaches.

Why was the path by the arch in Akumal closed?

The path was illegally created two years ago through private hotel property by a group of commercial tour operators. It was never a government-recognized access point to the beach, and the property rights of the hotel were violated. It took two years in court proceedings for a resolution. Last month a federal judge issued a court order to return the property back to its rightful owner under the supervision of municipal police.

How do I access Akumal Bay now?

Image from the Urban Development Plan Akumal 2007-2032

There are two main options to access the beach:

  1. Through one of the government designated “Ventanas al Mar” or windows to the sea in Akumal. (Marked by blue diamonds on the map.) There are accesses to Akumal Bay both to the south and to the north.
  2. Through Centro Ecologico Akumal—the building beside the Akumal Dive Shop.

 

Is there a fee to access the beach?

Entering the beach through one of the “Ventanas al Mar” is free. (These windows to the sea are federal property and under the jurisdiction of the federal government.)

If beach-goers wish to enter and use the services provided at the Centro Ecologico Akumal building (washrooms, showers, lockers, lifeguards, palapas etc), they can do so according the following fee schedule:

  • Residents of Quintana Roo with identification: Free
  • Children under 6 / seniors with INAPAM identification card: Free
  • All other visitors or guests: $5USD/100 pesos.

In summary:

  • Akumal Bay/beach is not closed.
  • Akumal Bay/beach is not private.
  • Akumal Bay has several access points/paths.
  • Anyone can access the beach through the Ventanas al Mar or the CEA building.
  • “Quintanarooenses” can enter the beach through the CEA building at no cost.

As we become aware of more details, we will be sure to post.

Updates to the Illegal Beach Path in Akumal

Since 2016 when land was illegally taken from Hotel Akumal Caribe by a group of commercial tour guides and operators wielding chainsaws, axes, and machetes claiming their right to the private property, the process to reclaim the land has been in the courts. At the end of January, a federal judge passed the order that the land in fact belonged to Hotel Akumal Caribe, recognized through municipal and public records that the path to the bay is not a “window to the sea” (as the cooperatives/commercial operators claimed) and that the land is to be restituted back to the hotel.

Currently, the municipal president is defying the court order and some of the commercial operators are retaliating by launching false media campaigns.

Recently the following was published in QueQui newspaper. (Translation below.)

 

To the public opinion

Background: On August 31, 2016, various groups of commercial operators, in collusion with the City of Tulum, invaded private property belonging to the Hotel Akumal Caribe. Arguing that within said property there should be a public access to the beach (window to the sea). In the presence and with the consent of the municipal police, the merchants were introduced to the property with heavy machinery, chainsaws and machetes and demolished buildings, deforested green areas and even demolished the statue of Gonzalo Guerrero.

From the date on which this occurred, the invaded area has been used for the sale of turtle swimming tours, rent of vests and other offers of the informal vendors; This to the detriment of the ecology and the tourist image of Akumal.

The Hotel, firmly believing in the rule of law, sought to assert its property rights and the resolution of the conflict with strict adherence to the law. This process has been  long and expensive. Meanwhile, for more than a year and a half, the invaders commercially exploited the property, causing irreparable damage to the image and tourist offer of Akumal.

After a long legal process, the Second Collegiate Court of the Seventh Circuit, Cancun, Quintana Roo, determined that the ownership of the Hotel Akumal Caribe was taken illegally on August 31, 2016 and ordered its restitution. Among other things, the definitive resolution establishes that:

“… to restitute the complaining party with respect to the part of their property that was affected …”

We have full confidence in our legal institutions. The legal truth is now clear. We await the full compliance according to the law by the Municipality of Tulum. The validation by the municipal authorities of acts contrary to the law and the incitement to “continue with the struggle” is a clear challenge to federal justice and the laws of our country.

We will remain committed to the sustainable development of Akumal. Convinced that the best way to help the community is with generating jobs and attracting quality tourism. We should not devalue the tourist offer of Akumal for the benefit of the informal vendors; this does not contribute to its development. On the contrary, it directly attacks the investments that generate employment and the right of legitimate workers and businesses in the tourism sector of the entity.

Hotel Akumal Caribe

Owners, managers and workers.

“They will regain their property” reads PorEsto! article

They will regain their property” is the headline found in the PorEsto! in the September 9, 2016 edition. The original Spanish content is online HERE. What follows below is a translation of this article.


 

AKUMAL, TULUM, September 8, 2016—At a press conference organized by the managers of Centro Ecológico Akumal (CEA), the Asociación de Hoteles de Tulum (AHT) and representatives of Hotel Akumal Caribe, it was announced that legal action will be taken in adherence to the law regarding the access which was opened in Akumal, after the council of Tulum approved its opening and reversal of the means and bound document  this past August 29 which the pobladores say is a “window to sea,” although the legal entity that is part of a lodging center where the path was opened, declared it is  private property.

Therefore, Armando Couto Keever, legal representative for Laura Bush, who owns the hotel Akumal Caribe, said that the access that the pobladores were fighting for on paper is the part  that adjoins to the private property of the CEA which is in conflict, so it is part of the property belonging to the lodging center that has been invaded.

“We are asking the authorities to do their job and everything depends on how circumstances arise, but obviously it comes down to recovering property, because that opened access is part of Akumal Caribe,” he said.

He also mentioned that in the coming days they will proceed according to the law and will not allow people to access property that he alleged belongs to the hotel.

Asked whether private security personnel would be hired to prevent the passage of people, Couto Keever said that that it is not up to him, and the only intention “is that people do not pass if it is not a public access.”

In addition, with respect to the suspension granted by a judge, following an application  of appeal, submitted  after the events carried out by the pobladores this past August 31 with the presence of the police protection, and that the closing of this access would go against the process, the interviewee replied that they expect the lawyers to proceed according to the legal process they are carrying out.

Recalling that on the seventy-fourth session of the council of Tulum, held this past August 29, under General Business, the pobladores lobbied the council to approve the reopening of a public access to the bay, because in past years they have alleged that it is a window to the sea.

During that session, seven aldermen and one trustee voted to revoke the content of the “document” number  DC/DTC/201/2013 dated August 26 2013, effectively backdating the effects of the means and boundaries before that date, and proceeded to open this access.

As a result of that vote, the legal council of the hotel stated that the action by the city of Tulum to declare the revocation of this document, several irregular actions occurred: First, the statement to overturn the said “document” was made without substantiating any proceedings which meet essential formalities established by law.

As well, this agreement also resulted in the confiscation of private property, and depriving the right of private ownership of a particular part of the property and made use of it without having acquired it through expropriation proceedings or through other legal means of  acquisition.

In addition, the council of Tulum lacks the power to determine the revocation of that “document,” as in accordance with the Law of Land Registry of the State of Quintana Roo, the council of Tulum has the authority to resolve appeals of revocation proceedings brought against their own actions and decisions and generally not those that are brought  against acts and decisions made by other  municipal authorities.

Note that this clearly suggests that in the next few days this access to Akumal beach could close, for which the dispute whether it is public or private has gone on for various years, so with that, there could be another confrontation with acts of violence.

If a Tree Falls…

Manuary 29, 2016

Seeing recent activity and comments in social media as well as news articles, one cannot help but wonder if Akumal is in its own philosophical thought experiment much like “if a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?”

Slightly adapted of course, the thought experiment would be something like, if rules are made and no legal authority is there to oversee or enforce them, do the rules need to be followed? Do the rules even exist?

It certainly seems that some believe the answer is no. A few examples to illustrate the point:

1. Ignoring the Port Closure by the Harbour Captain / Beach Flag Warning

In Akumal Bay there is a beach flag warning system, much like any other beach, it operates on a traffic light system—green is good, yellow is take caution, red is stop. The red flag is an advisement, used to indicate high risk to enter the water.

During the week of Christmas, despite sunny days, the water conditions were not ideal. Akumal Bay was set to a red flag during these days because the wind and currents were strong, the visibility poor and the normally calm bay was quite choppy. In fact, the conditions were so bad that the harbor captain closed the port and stopped all recreational boating operations for several days.

Yet, despite the closure, some locally-operated snorkel cooperatives continued to conduct their tours, risking the safety of their clients.

Dec23-Diario de Quintana Roo

From Diario de Quintana Roo (December 23, 2015)
http://www.dqr.com.mx/index.php/sections/tulum/24907-arriesgaron-vida-de-turistas

2. Disregarding the federally decreed Fish Refuge

In April 2015, the federal government declared an area around Akumal Bay a fish refuge—meaning that the span of about 7km long and 1.5km from shore is a no-take zone. Yet, visitors and residents have reported on several occasions seeing various activities (spearfishing and shore fishing for example) that contravenes the federally recognized decree from. Additionally, there are rules such as that no fish should be cleaned or discarded in the bay.

In a recent article posted on the CEA website, a video has been circling social media in regards to a rather unusual discovery—turtles feeding on barracuda carcasses. The article raises many questions as to where the fish were caught and why the carcasses were in the bay in the first place (to chum/attract wildlife or just discarded overboard?) Either way, both would be against the rules. And yet again, the rules don’t seem to apply for whoever tossed or placed them in the bay.

turtles in akumal bay eating fish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Complete article can be found here: http://goo.gl/bH1gqs

3. Squatting on Concession Areas

In another social media post, this time on a local hotel page, an independent tour operator had set up shop in the hotel’s beach concession area. The following images and information was posted:

We want our hotel guests to know that the snorkel tour vendors who have set up on the beach area of the hotel are in NO way affiliated nor employed by Hotel Akumal Caribe or the surrounding businesses. In fact, this group doesn’t have the required authorization (government issued concession/permit) to even conduct business in this area. Since government action takes time, we ask for your support and not encourage illegal behavior by contracting any services with these groups.

HAC facebook image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those that may not be aware, each beachfront hotel or property that plans on using the 20 meter federal area of beach must have a federally issued permit or “concession” to do so. Additionally the laws clearly state that no selling or peddling is permitted in the concession area. (Article 12 of the Ley Federal de Zona Federal)

Despite being asked to leave by police and fiscal authorities, the guides return the very next day like nothing happened and set up shop once again.

Even in the past week, it seems there are more groups and individuals contravening the concession laws by selling food, snacks, hats and of course snorkel tours.

hotel vendors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From these examples, it is obvious that if there is not constant enforcement of the rules, some believe that the rules don’t exist. Where it gets odder is that some guides aren’t capable of upholding their end of an agreement.

4. Defying changes to the beach access

In December, as an attempt to organize the flow of traffic to the beach before the beginning of high season, Centro Ukana I Akumal had redirected beachgoers and commercial operators to the beach access through the main building which resulted in a roadblock into Akumal protesting the closure of the path entrance. After four days, an agreement was reached that the beach path would be for the people of the pueblo for their personal and recreation use and the other entrance would be for everyone else, including commerical snorkel groups/tours. And yet despite this agreement, some snorkel groups refuse to comply.

As posted on Centro Ecologico Akumal’s page:

guides entering

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A group of guides employed by several local snorkel tour operators has decided to disregard the agreement reached on December 20th regarding the Centro Ukana I Akumal AC beach entrances. The agreement reached outlined that locals would have access to the beach via the path, however, it would be for their personal/recreational use only. All others, including commercial snorkel groups, would use the main entrance to the beach on the property.

So, if a tree falls and a group of people were there to watch it fall and confirm that it fell with documents and photos, it becomes hard to debate that the falling tree wasn’t heard.

These are just four examples from the past month that illustrate the belief for some that rules can be disregarded, ignored, or broken, especially if there are no authorities to enforce them.

Yet, the rules, guidelines, or agreements serve a purpose: to ensure safety to national and foreign tourists; to provide order to Akumal Bay; and to preserve the natural beauty and resources that many depend on. Sadly, for some individuals and groups, there is little respect for creating and maintaining order, little regard to safety, and not much concern the ecosystems.

If these rules can’t be followed and even a voluntary agreement by some of the participants can’t be respected, it begs the question how a comprehensive bay management plan for Akumal will ever be adhered to.

However, what has become very clear by these examples is that the missing piece of the philosophical thought experiment statement are the authorities. If rules are made and a legal authority is there to oversee or enforce them, then the rules must certainly exist.

 

Threat of Yet Another Blockade in Akumal

FRIDAY, JANUARY 8, 2016

The rumors have started. The whispers are being spread. And the not-so secret meetings of the renegade cooperatives, who believe they are the exception to any rule or agreement, are happening.

What’s the issue?

Same as before—the access to the beach through the pathway located on private property.

On December 20, 2015, a few things were established:

  • The path entrance can be used for locals-only (people from the pueblo)
  • The path entrance would be for the locals’ recreational/personal use only (no commercial activity)
  • All commercial activity would be rerouted through the CUIAC property

After this arrangement, which was agreed to, the roadblock was taken down. But it begs the question, did the renegade tour guides/operators who didn’t agree merely see this as a temporary truce? As time to regroup and plan their next step?

Anything is possible, right? It does make one believe this is exactly what was done because on Wednesday, January 6, local guides began using the “locals-only” entrance effectively breaching the agreement that the entrance was not to be used for commercial purposes.

It is a blatant disregard to the agreement. Essentially, this act of defiance is a middle-finger salute to not only the property owners but also to the local agreement-respecting community. It also reflects badly on the authorities who were there to ensure the agreement be respected yet stood by to watch it happen.

So what’s being done?

From what we’ve seen and have been told, the property management (CUIAC) hasn’t taken action. They are aware of the breach in the agreement and released a statement earlier today which stated, “Not wishing to cause conflict and knowing that a meeting is scheduled with local authorities today, property management has not intervened.”

And what about the blockade?

As of now, the road is clear. But who knows what will happen after the meeting. Predicting this group’s actions is like predicting that of a petulant teenager.

For those only passing though or reading some of the media coverage, you may not have realized that during the December roadblock the protesters (mostly comprised of tour operators/guides) accosted and harassed various members of the community (locals, expats and tourists alike as they crossed the blockade or were refused entry into Akumal in vehicles), cut down trees on private property to create the roadblock, disposed of garbage in the forest during this time, misrepresented themselves as staff and members of the ecological society in the press, posted threatening and violent messages towards respected community leaders in the pueblo, disregarded the port authority’s bay closure and the safety of their clients to go snorkeling, and directly impacted their fellow pobladores from earning a living.

That is the just a small scale view. The ripples continue outward yet somehow I doubt the global picture of impacting tourism or even ecology by unsustainable practices is being given a second thought.

Final thoughts

It is just really unfortunate. Clearly, this is a very passionate group of people who believe in what they are fighting for, but would it not be amazing to harness this passion and use it to apply pressure on the government to finally declare Akumal a Turtle Refuge? Or to focus the energy into creating a viable and sustainable management plan?