Friday, July 31, 2009

Hot Sand in Cancun: Beach Sand Stolen?

"Mexico shuts Cancun beach, alleges sand was stolen"
The Associated Press (July 30, 2009)

"Surprised tourists found their little piece of Cancun beach paradise ringed by crime-scene tape and gun-toting sailors on Thursday.

"Environmental enforcement officers backed by Mexican navy personnel closed off hundreds of feet (dozens of meters) of powder-white coastline in front of a hotel accused of illegally accumulating sand on its beach.

"Mexico spent $19 million to replace Cancun beaches washed away by Hurricane Wilma in 2005. But much of the sand pumped from the sea floor has since washed away, leading some property owners to build breakwaters in a bid to retain sand. The practice often merely shifts sand loss to beaches below the breakwaters.

" 'Today we made the decision to close this stretch of ill-gotten, illegally accumulated sand,' said Patricio Patron, Mexico's attorney general for environmental protection. 'This hotel was telling its tourists: "Come here, I have sand ... the other hotels don't, because I stole it." '..."

I've heard of beaches with hot sand: but not 'hot' this way.

The AP article gives a pretty good look at the reaction of tourists, but doesn't - in my opinion - explain why, by implication, a hotel building a breakwater to retain sand on its beach is 'stealing' sand. Maybe it's the sort of principle that applied in classrooms, where if a student brought something special in his or her lunch it was a case of "I hope you have enough for everybody."

'Artificial' beaches are pretty common a little north of here, in Minnesota's lake country. We've got sand-bottom lakes, where you can get a sandy beach by peeling back the sod. But, we've also got mud-bottom lakes where resort owners haul sand in - and can get a bit peeved if people carry it off the property.

So, there may very well be a legitimate complaint, down in Cancun. I just wish The Associated Press had given enough detail for us to understand it a bit more adequately.

Oh, well: On the 'up' side, there's a map and two photos.

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