San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Golfito Marina Project Delayed Another Year

Logistical problems and environmental complaints have pushed back progress on the Bahia Escondida Marina in Golfito by at least a year.

Developers behind the marina, which will occupy a corner of the GolfitoGulf inside the larger GolfoDulceGulf on Costa Rica’s southern Pacific shore, are now estimating the marina will be open for business in November 2010.

Construction on the underwater infrastructure that will support the marina has ground to a halt as builders wait on gravel.

The project has also been delayed by a series of environmental complaints, said Pedro Abdalla, a representative of Hacienda Dorado, the firm behind the marina.

“We beat all three in the courts,” Abdalla said. “We are free.”

However, he acknowledged that in one case heard by the Environmental Tribunal, Hacienda Dorado’s president, James Lynsky, agreed to a series of measures to make up for the destruction of mangroves on the company’s property.

Abdalla insisted the company did not cut the coastal forest; however Lynsky agreed to spend nearly $300,000 to settle the matter.

“It wasn’t us, and they could never prove it,” Abdalla said. “But we assumed responsibility. It was on our property.”

According to the tribunal, an administrative court of the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications Ministry (MINAET), Lynsky agreed to donate 5,000 square meters of land encompassing mangroves to the government, which will become the Los Tribunales Mangrove Protection Area.

Hacienda Dorado will also build a sewage treatment plant to service 160 Golfito homes. The plant’s construction will cost more than $200,000 according to estimates from the court and Abdalla.

The company also must donate $50,000 for a social and economic development program for the region and $20,000 for compensation measures, including reforestation, environmental education, waste management training and equipment for the Osa Conservation Area, the regional MINAET office.

The total cost of the marina project will end up between $200 million and $250 million, Abdalla said. The project is backed by a U.S. citizen who has lived in Costa Rica for 14 years and a group of businessmen from Las Vegas, Nevada, Abdalla said.

The investors are currently in the process of getting financing, a task Abdalla acknowledges could be hindered by the financial crisis in the United States.

The first phase of the marina project would see the construction of a 270-slip marina that will cover 16 hectares of Golfito’s calm, tropical waters, as well as a yacht club, a 90-slip dry dock, and basic government offices.

The second phase would include a 150-apartment “private residential club” for members, restaurants and commercial space and a spa. Three more phases would see the construction of a 200-condominium residential project on titled property inland, Abdalla said.

In the meanwhile, however, construction is on hold while builders wait for a company that supplies crushed gravel to have its concession to pull rocks from a riverbed be renewed.

“We know that the concession is about to get published,” said Pedro Abdalla, estimating that work will get back underway in January or February.

Builders need the gravel to erect underwater pillars that are pounded 15 meters into the sea floor, a process that also compacts the sand underneath the pillars, Abdalla said.

The pillars, which are set at a distance of two meters from each other in a grid pattern, will support the residential, office and commercial buildings, as well as other above water construction.

Currently, only one marina is in operation on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast: the Los Sueños Marina in the bay of Herradura, on the central Pacific. That marina has been credited for much of the tourism and real estate boom that has grown up in the region in recent years.

Los Sueños has created 526 permanent direct jobs as well as an additional 1,000 indirect ones. Marina users account for 10 to 20 percent of the increase in Central Pacific hotel guests in recent years, according to a study commissioned by the Inter-Institutional Commission on Marinas and Tourist Docks (CIMAT), which oversees the development of marinas in the country (TT, Aug 22).

The nation’s only other operating marina, in Playa Flamingo, south of Coco, was closed in 2004 for environmental violations (TT, March 26, 2004). After years of conflict and bureaucratic confusion, the concession to build a new marina at Flamingo was awarded this year to bidder Desarrollos de Marinas Matapalo Demm S.A. That decision, however, has been appealed by a losing bidder.

Two other marinas are currently under construction on the Pacific coast.

The furthest along is the Papagayo marina, north of Playas del Coco, on the southern side of the PapagayoPeninsula. This will be part of the state-administrated Polo Turístico Golfo Papagayo, a concession-only area home to some of the country’s most luxurious resorts. That marina is expected to be ready early next year.

The second marina, to be located in Quepos, is the Marina Pez Vela. Developers have planned on opening next year.



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