MVA working to cap number of Grotto visitors

Propst says site overcrowded, working on bill to ban smoking at site

Tourists visit the Grotto, a famous dive spot in Marpi, in this file photo. Rep. Edwin K. Propst (Ind-Saipan) has expressed concern about overcrowding and trash at the site. (Ferdie de la Torre)

The Marianas Visitors Authority is working with other government agencies to regulate the number of people visiting the Grotto, a dive site in Marpi, according to MVA managing director Priscilla Iakopo yesterday.

When asked for comments about Rep. Edwin K. Propst’s (Ind-Saipan) concerns about overcrowding at the Grotto as well as the proliferation of trash, Iakopo said that MVA is aware of the situation and that they are working to resolve these issues.

Iakopo said they have plans to upgrade the dive site’s facilities and to address safety concerns.

As for the trash and cigarette butts scattered in the area, she said they have volunteer groups that regularly pick up trash at the site and have contracted services to monitor activities for safety reasons and clean the site.

In addition, she said, Parks and Recreation personnel have routine schedules to keep all MVA sites clean.

“It is important that our visitors and our community understand the importance of keeping our sites clean for the next person to enjoy,” Iakopo said.

Propst posted in his Facebook account Tuesday pictures of cigarette butts scattered on the ground and the many tourists crowding the Grotto.

Propst said he and his staff visited Grotto that morning at around 10:30am and that there were already a ton of tourists and the parking area was full.

“Trash and cigarette butts [were] everywhere,” he said, adding that he was told that the place is usually jam-packed in the afternoons, with parking going all the way up the hill.

“We can do better than this,” he said.

Between 700 and 1,000 visitors go to the Grotto everyday, he added.

There is currently no fee to enter the Grotto, despite legislation introduced in the 19th, 20th, and 21st House of Representatives to charge a $5 fee per tourist.

In an interview yesterday, Propst expressed concern about law enforcement at the dive site as there is only one security guard and there are too many tourists.

Propst said he is now working on a bill to ban smoking at the Grotto and is also considering extending the ban to all tourist sites in the CNMI.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at

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