Prime Pacific beach tourist areas seeking self-governance

A.M. Costa Rica/Aaron Knapp This is one of those famous Nosara potholes

In a march to Nicoya last week on Annexation day, hundreds of Nosara community members called for the communities between Sámara and Ostional to part ways with Nicoya and become its own canton.

The proposal stems from the community having waited years for any level of government to make good on promises for desperately needed infrastructure repairs, most importantly paving the stretch of highway between Sámara and Nosara.

Jorge Arrieta, treasurer of the Nosara development association, said that the communities could divert money going to Nicoya and spend it on their own development. The area generates significant revenue from its popularity as tourist destinations,

“The municipality is doing nothing for Nosara,” he said. “The idea is to keep the money here and spend it on the community.”

Nosara has been slow to receive basic infrastructure upgrades because it is situated in a remote location on the Pacific Coast in Guanacaste. In the last decade its popularity has grown significantly among tourists and people looking to become permanent residents.

This growth has exacerbated the problems that the community faces.

The primary issue for years has been paving at least the stretch of key highway, which has not occurred despite the previous Óscar Arias administration’s promise to do so.

Additionally, the community has set up its own waste disposal system, volunteer fire department, and body governing water distribution, since the Nicoya canton has been unable to effectively accomplish these tasks.

However, these tasks were only supposed to be temporary solutions until higher levels of government were able to take over the responsibilities, but many have since turned into permanent short-term fixes.

“We are trying to do projects here,” said Arrieta. “We have no money because the municipality doesn’t do much here.”

However, the proposed canton would be very small, and not all community members are convinced that it could govern itself.
“My only concern is who would run it,” said resident Bobbi Johnson.

Ms. Johnson said the idea has been proposed numerous times over the years, and also said that Marco Antonio Jiménez, mayor of Nicoya, has expressed support for the idea.

“The canton would not have to take responsibility for the town, which they don’t take responsibility for anyway,” she said.

Even with the support of all levels of government, Ms. Johnson explained that the process of separating from Nicoya and becoming a new canton could take five to 10 years. That would mean that infrastructure issues would not be solved any time soon.

Despite all of the things the government has not done, Arrieta said it is still important to work with other levels of government during the process. “That is the best to get what we want,” he said.

If the community begins to take steps to become its own canton, it will be the second segment of the Nicoya Peninsula to begin the process. The first is a much larger area farther south on the peninsula, partially in the province of Puntarenas and partially in Guanacaste. It is several years into the procedure.

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