San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Parks: Islands of Calm Among Noise

CERTAIN pieces of real estatein San José aren’t for sale, thoughthey might be considered among itsmore beautiful locations – the cityhas several parks that are islands ofcalm and green among the noiseand clouds of bus exhaust.Parks in San José includeParque Nacional, Parque Central,Parque España, Parque Nicaragua,Parque Morazán and ParqueSabana, the only large wooded areain the city.The parks are funded and maintainedby the city, said Teo Dinarte,a spokeswoman from the municipalityof San José. Full-time cityemployees clean them, plant andreplace plants and care for theplants, she said.Unfortunately, she said, thoseemployees have been required topass through the parks to performsuch upkeep a little more often thanshould be necessary.“Although we have security 24hours a day, it’s impossible to stopthe vandalism that occurs in theparks,” Dinarte told The TicoTimes. “It is a very high cost for thecity.”SHE said thieves take lights,plants, fences – anything they can.Vigilance in the parks is providedby San José municipal policeofficers, said Eduardo Gúzman,chief of the San José command centerDelta One. He said that in theparks, almost all of which are open24 hours a day, vandalism seems tobe the worst crime problem.“Really, we’ve never had anincident,” Gúzman said, but addedthat many parks are frequented byprostitutes at night.The only city park closed atnight is Parque Sabana, which usedto be the national airport, becausethe lack of lighting creates a securityrisk, he said.THE park, managed by theCosta Rican Sports and RecreationInstitute (ICODER), has severalsoccer fields, basketball courts anda trail running the perimeter, and isa favorite location for joggers andweekend soccer buffs. Visitors canalso enjoy a horseback ride, and thepark is a popular location forSunday picnics. Gúzman said thatto his knowledge, there has neverbeen a security problem during theday there.Parque Naciónal is the largestpark in downtown San José, and atits center is the National Monument,which commemorates Costa Rica’svictory over U.S. invader WilliamWalker in Rivas, Nicaragua. Thepark, which sits next to the NationalCultural Center (CENAC), hasdozens of benches shaded by smallgroves of trees, and the quiet splashingof a fountain adds to the site’stranquility.Parque Morazán has quite a differentsound, and especially in theevenings. The park is home to hundredsof birds, and they fill the park with sound every evening.In Parque España, where children in 1903 sang the National Anthem for the first time,the winding paths are completely shaded by fully grown, tall trees.NONE of these parks, however, have play equipment, which can be absolutely essentialfor those with little ones.“We have a lot of demand for parks in our household,” said Frederick Markowski, aninternational lawyer and father of three.Markowski regularly takes his children, ages four, three and one, on “park tours”through the Central Valley. He said the best technique he’s found is to drive around andexplore.“We’ll play 30 minutes at one and move on, 30 minutes at another, and the next thingyou know, it’s four o’clock,” he said.After spending enough time with the kids, Markowski said, he gets sucked into theirworld and analyzing potential play sites from their perspective, looking at things such as“swing safety factor.”“When you’re one year old, swing safety factor is pretty important,” he said. “The onesthat tip over aren’t real popular.”

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