Despite Red Tape, Pacific Marinas Look to the Future
LOS Sueños marina at Herradura on the central PacificCoast, the larges marina in Costa Rica, has not had space available for the last year.
So you could say that while one marina is still on paper and another is floundering in a legal limbo, the marina situation in Guanacaste has potential. In the next few years its coasts could have bragging rights to two, if not more, new or revamped facilities for pleasure craft.
SIXTEEN visionaries, almost all Costa Rican, who are the Association for the Development of the Marina of Playas del Coco, have set the substantial paper foundation for a new marina there – the zoning plan has been approved, according to the president of the leadership council, Rafael Villegas, but the concession has not been awarded yet.
The group began the paperwork five years ago, with the help of the Triangle of Solidarity, a now-defunct project initiated by the presidency, aimed at helping communities develop. The first backhoes and cement mixers should roll onto the site within a year. The marina will be finished, if all goes as planned, five years later.
They plan to work with the Inter-Institutional Commission for Marinas and Tourism Docks (CIMAT), coordinated by the Costa Rican Tourism Institute, with representatives from the Ministries of Health, Environment, Transportation and the National Housing Institute. CIMAT is charged with providing a technical decision on all marina concessions, which also must be approved by the corresponding municipality (TT, Oct. 3, 2003).
This is an ambitious project that shoots for record proportions in the isthmus – Villegas claims it will be the largest marina in Central America. In the first stage, the marina will have 300 slips and all the services. Those will include the equipment for full, dry repairs, mechanics’ workshops and gas and diesel fill-ups.
VISITORS from abroad will be able to check in with an immigration agent there, and a firefighters’ boat will be on call, as will police. Playas del Coco is a port, it already has a Port Captain, immigration office, and police. The marina will pay for the firefighters’ boat, which they need for their insurance policy. Amenities will include the usual fare for visitors to Costa Rica’s beaches: hotels, condominiums, restaurants and casinos.
The second stage will add 500 slips, taking its capacity to 800. “The marina will comply with all the standards and rules of those in the United States,” Villegas said. “The advantage is that there are no hurricanes.”
He said the prices will be the going rates for similar services anywhere. He claims it will also provide hundreds of jobs, figuring in all the personnel who will work directly for the marina and in the periphery businesses, such as slip attendants, mechanics, and hotel and restaurant employees.
THE situation at the Flamingo Marina on the Bahía Potrero, farther south, is much murkier.
Last week, the Environmental Tribunal ordered the Municipality of Santa Cruz to shut down the Marina for the second time in six months.
Criticizing Mayor Pastor Gómez for allowing the marina to remain open, the Tribunal issued a resolution stating that under no circumstances will boats be permitted at the site and requested the cessation of all activities in the marina.
The Tribunal began investigating last year after reports of alleged water pollution at the marina. When the Municipality failed to present an environmental plan to deal with the problem, the Tribunal first called for the marina’s closure in Oct., 2003.
DESPITE the Tribunal’s ruling, the marina had continued to operate (TT, Dec. 12, 2003).
Alexandra Gutiérrez, administrative director for the Municipality of Santa Cruz, told La Nación that activities at the marina have been suspended. However, she added that the Secretariat Technical of the Environment and Energy Ministry has been evaluating the situation for the past four months and there is a possibility approval will be given to reopen the marina in the future.
Filling in for Mayor Gómez while he was out of the office last week, acting Mayor Mary Paniagua said the future concession was still going through legal procedures, including the approval of a new zoning plan, and could take as long as six months.
ULRIK Oldenburg, hotel owner and president of the Flamingo Beach Association Board, is biding his time while the political forces duke it out over the marina’s new ownership.
His association and the Marina Boat Captain Association had been collecting voluntary payment from boat captains in the slips to pay guards and marina employees in the meantime.
If the dock is closed, Oldenburg estimates that 450 people would be out of work, including all the supporting businesses – hotels, restaurants, etc. that would lose clientele.
“WE [in the associations] all have different interests, but one common goal: that the marina must not close,” Oldenburg said. “The marina is a viable source of income, not just for my hotel, but for the other businesses, down to the lady who sells empanadas on the docks.”
A future marina in Ocotal is more nebulous than the two previously mentioned.
Rick Wallace, owner of the Hotel Ocotal, said he began the paper work a few years ago, but has put the project on hold for now.
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