Perhaps it would be helpful to your readers if we provided them with a bit of historical background on, and the actual status of, Chiget Beach, northeastern Tinian, before families drive up there.
In 2013, shortly after receiving his copy of the Marine Corps’ proposed Commonwealth Joint Military Training plan for Tinian, then-mayor Ramon Dela Cruz recommended that if they wanted to put a high caliber artillery range on Tinian, creating a “Dudded Impact Area” (meaning a place where artillery shells that hit the ground do not explode), then they should prove they can clean it up by first cleaning up the Chiget Mortar Range, which used much smaller caliber weapons.
When he received no response, Mayor Ramon Dela Cruz wrote to then-lieutenant governor Jude Hofschneider on April 22, 2013: “Before we can discuss the new Dudded Impact Area, we must resolve the closure of the old mortar range at Chiget. If this is not done, then when it comes time to discuss the Dudded Impact Area [created by CJMT], the public might feel insecure about the future cleanup of a new area of unexploded ordnance.”
No response was received from the lieutenant governor, and no action was taken. A cleanup was apparently not entertained until 2020.
It was my pleasure to attend the “opening” of Chiget Beach on Dec. 23, 2021. Old Boston Post Road had been cleared in front of the road to Chiget, where canopies and chairs were provided for the military and civilian dignitaries.
During the subsequent speeches, it was noted that the contractor who cleared the road to Chiget had mounted a concrete-reinforced danger sign in the middle of the entrance. Thus, for now at least, no vehicles can drive down to Chiget Beach. Assuming the sign is removed, there remains the problem of the parallel restraining, concrete-block and heavy-wire boundaries along each side of the road, barely wide enough for one 4 X 4. There are no turnouts to let vehicles pass.
It should also be noted that only the road to Chiget Beach and the area just north of it have been cleared of unexploded ordnance. The rest of the Chiget Mortar Range remains closed. The turn into Blowhole, one of our favorite tourist attractions, is still very dangerous. Cars leaving the Blowhole cannot see traffic coming from the left on the perimeter road.
It should also be noted that the Municipality of Tinian and Aguiguan is not funded to maintain the road to Chiget. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, the mayor of Tinian receives no funds, federal or local, to maintain the roadways and historic sites within the military leased lands.
No doubt, Joint Region Marianas will order the signpost moved, the boundaries widened, and we will be able to enjoy teaching our children, and grandchildren how to snorkel at Chiget again, soon.
Don A. Farrell
Marpo Heights, Tinian