San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Development Group: Always Work to Do

BELIEVE it or not, it’s not all aboutthe Flamingo Marina.There’s no question that uncertaintyover the status of the marina occupies anunprecedented amount of time for theFlamingo Beach Development Associationthese days. (See separate story.)And, indeed, after affirming, “We allhave one common goal: the marina must notclose,” board president Ulrik Oldenburgenthusiastically launches into a discussion ofother projects on the association’s agenda,ranging from pavement to Portapotties.“Conflicts are normal,” saysOldenburg, manager of Flamingo MarinaResort, of an organization in a communityencompassing some 30 nationalitiesamong its residents.IN its 15 years of existence, the associationhas ranged in size from eight to 54members. But it remains one of the country’smost active community organizations.“There was a lot of momentum yearsago when we needed to build the road,”says board member Marie Yates, proprietorof Marie’s Restaurant.The association was responsible forprocuring the funds and pushing the rightbuttons with the Ministry of Public Worksand Transport to get the road paved fromHuacas up to Flamingo.PRIVATE has frequently been themodus operandi here. The association contractswith the private sanitation firm WPPfor three-times-weekly trash pickup inFlamingo, a frequency almost unheard ofin Costa Rica. And SUDAR, the association-operated, user-owned water board, isone of the country’s success stories, withthe National Water Service (AyA) deemingit among the country’s best.It’s natural for interest to wane whenissues aren’t so pressing, Yates says.“The association gets strong in time ofcrisis,” Oldenburg explains. “There wasthe water crisis, then the road crisis. Nowit’s the marina crisis.”COSTA Rica’s growing dengue problemwas last year’s hot-button issue for thecommunity. Oldenburg was among thoseafflicted. But the association has takensteps to combat the mosquito-borne ailment,and is buoyed by news of this year’slower number of new dengue cases.“Well, well below those of last year,”Oldenburg says of July’s announcement bythe Ministry of Health of only two newcases in the entire region.The organization is in the midst of acontinuing community educational awarenesscampaign, as well as periodic fumigationsto eliminate mosquitoes.“It is a continuing battle, and one wewill be forced to fight for many years,”Oldenburg admits.THIS year’s issues, other than themarina, have not been quite so threatening.One annoying side problem of themarina situation has been the moving ofthe bus stop. Transport vehicles from SanJosé and Santa Cruz formerly stopped infront of the marina. They now sit at theintersection at base of the hill road,Oldenburg says, with barely enough roomto turn around or to let other traffic pass.The problem of cars driving on thebeach was eradicated by strategic placementof stones and tree stumps along theedge of the frontage road. They serve asbarriers, but attractive ones. And the associationwas successful in removing an illegaltemporary cantina that sprang up duringthe busy Christmas holiday season inthe mangrove across from the beach.A debate over installation of portablerestrooms was initially a contentious one,Oldenburg says, but soon the beach willsee a few unobtrusive Portapotty-brandfacilities with faux-wood exteriors.Board member Carlos Soto serves asliaison between the association andFlamingo’s Blue Flag Committee, and hasbeen vigilant about maintaining high standardsfor the white-sand beach, arguablyFlamingo’s prime source of identity.Soto hopes the Blue Flag awards will bea four-for-four clean sweep on this sectionof the coast in 2005. Beaches at Flamingoand nearby La Penca and Pan de Azúcar allproudly fly Blue Flags as symbols of ecologicalexcellence under the national awardsprogram administered by AyA.NEIGHBORING Potrero has been thegap.“Potrero has almost everything in placeto get the flag,” Soto says. “They still lackan active Blue Flag committee, one of theprimary requisites of the program.“It’s just a matter of time,” he says.

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