San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Golfito Marina Planned

The struggling economy of the southernPacific port town of Golfito is scheduled for ahigh-strength injection of foreign capital with aplanned $400 million marina and hotel project.Marvin Jaén, executive director of the project,says it would create 1,000 new jobs and open thedoors of supporting businesses for an estimated2,500 additional “indirect” employment opportunities.Such an investment could alleviate the economicdepression that the town of 36,000 people has experiencedfor years, according to the project director andlocal government officials.The first phase of the 10-year, two-phase project,planned for construction next year, includes a 217-slipmarina and a hotel of 100-150 rooms, with a projectedprice tag of $50 million, Jaén said.ARTISTIC renderings of the design portray anambitious project. The marina is planned for placementnorth of the existing ferry and speedboat dock, and willfeature a central park strip of lawns, sidewalks and fountains,a square and promenade on the waterfront, andquaint, one- and two-story buildings that will “respectthe architecture of the area,” Jaén said.“It will not be another Acapulco,” he added.Jaén and the project publicity manager, James Lynskey, head Hacienda El Dorado S.A.,the Costa Rican company that has attractedU.S. investors to pony up the money. Jaénsaid they have Florida-based CoastalSystems International on board as well as agroup of private investors, although theyare still seeking additional funding.The project’s working name is DesarrolloGolfito, although that is slated tochange soon, Jaén said.Hacienda El Dorado wants to capitalizeon Golfito’s reputation for sportfishing andunspoiled tracts of rain forest.ONE of the sportfishing tour operatorsthere, Roy Ventura of Roy’s ZancudoLodge, said the proposal is “fabulous.”He said he is concerned that the 1998marina law makes it difficult for smallermarinas in the area to expand, leaving themarket open only to those with deep pockets,but he is content the project could createa needed job explosion.“Golfito is a bay inside of a bay, so youjust can’t find any better anchorage thanthat,” he said. “There is plenty of water andplenty of places to go shopping. It’s a niceplace for boats to go hang their anchors at.”THE president of the MunicipalCouncil of Golfito, Rigoberto Núñez, saidthe council supports the project.“It’s a good alternative for Golfito – anopportunity to develop. It will be a source of employment. It’s better to have peopleemployed because it helps eliminate robberiesand prostitution,” he said.Jaén, who was a government PortCaptain in the central Pacific port ofPuntarenas for 15 years before he joinedthe private sector last year, said he is lookingto begin construction of phase one inFebruary 2005.The second phase of the ambitious projectdoes not have a start date, but is projectedfor completion in 10 years.It features a more upscale marina,separate from the first, on the misnamedpeninsula Isla Grande (Big Island). Classand charm will be piled on there – but notat the expense of the surrounding mangrovesand rain forest, Jaén is quick toadd.The second phase is slated for constructionin a former cocoa plantation andwill preserve the surrounding forest for itsguests. Plans include condominiums, aclubhouse, and all the services.BEFORE work can begin, however,the Inter-Institutional Commission ofMarinas and Tourist Docks (CIMAT) mustapprove the project, a process that requiressubmission an environmental impact studyapproved by the Technical Secretariat ofthe Environment Ministry (SETENA).Jaén told The Tico Times he turned in a1,050-page environmental impact study toSETENA on Wednesday.If all goes well, he plans to begin theproject with a wastewater treatment plant,which would be the first in Golfito.Now, he said, sewage lines pumpuntreated waste directly into the water. Theplant would treat not only the waste fromthe development project, but also that ofthe community.FROM CIMAT’s perspective, theprobability of the project’s approval ishigh. Oscar Villalobos, technical secretaryfor CIMAT, said the project is in phase two– phase four being fully operational.CIMAT will probably approve it, hesaid, if SETENA approves the environmentalimpact study. The Municipality ofGolfito could then begin the process ofawarding the marina concession.The two marinas in planning bothpassed a review by economists of the CostaRican Tourism Institute (ICT), Villalobosconfirmed.“With the little experience we havehad with Los Sueños (the marina inHerradura Bay, on the central Pacificcoast) and Flamingo (the marina inGuanacaste, on the northern Pacificcoast, currently shut down), the generationof direct and indirect employment isvery large,” Villalobos said. “We hopethat in Golfito it is the same.”Golfito already has two marinas, whichtogether have a total of 20 to 30 slips,Villalobos said.“Those are few,” he said, compared tothe demand for slip space in that area.Bruce Blevins owns one of those marinas,called Banana Bay.He said he is not worried about thepotential competition, and believes in hismarina’s ability to give personal attention.“We’ll wait and see how they do theproject, but economically it will do theregion well. The more offered to thetouristic boater the better for everyone,”he said.

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