A group in Puerto Jiménez started circulating a petition three weeks ago to stop U. S. company Crocodile Bay from building a marina and villas in Golfo Dulce, an area that has so far remained free of heavy developments.
The group calls itself the Comision Ambiental Asociacion de Dasarrollo.
Although the petition is less than a month old, the battle with Crocodile Bay is one that has been going on for around five years, the members said.
“It’s been a very long fight,” said Luis Daniel Montero.
Crocodile Bay Resort and Marina first came to Costa Rica in 1999 with a sports fishing hotel. It was at that time 13 years ago, that this local group formed and members have opposed the company ever since, said Cory Williams, owner.
He adds that the local development commission as well as the town of Puerto Jiménez fully support the new property. The people opposing are from an outside town and have a personal issue against his buildings, he said.
The new installation will sit on 44 acres and include 80 villas that range from one to three bedrooms with from 1,000 to 2,300 square feet, a 100-slip full service marina and a 74-room hotel. It is projected to bring between 800 and 1,200 jobs to the area, said Williams.
These jobs are ones that the environmental group say come with a high price, harm to the environment.
“Something is needed here but not something that will benefit some group so small and a just group of investors. They do create jobs, but it has to be something for everyone including the animals,” said Montero.
The group reported that there would be 300 boats and a four-story mega resort on the waters. According to Williams, this is false. The marina will only hold 100 boats, and the hotel will be a two-story building that is a part of the marina, he said.
The villas will be housed separately on a private property, he said.
“They are really not informed and not correct,” said Williams.
The marina will consist of a completely floating wavebreak and dock system, and the hotel will be on the waterfront with a spa and wellness center, yacht club, dining and shopping, said the firm’s Web site.
“It will be the only marina in Costa Rica to use 100 percent floating breakwaters. Basically the device contains large concrete blocks that are visually appealing and allow marina life to circulate,” said Williams.
The environmental association group claims that the new development would not be sustainable in the area, would disturb the ecosystem balance and would potentially harm the well being of sea creatures such as turtles, whales and dolphins.
“Humpbacks whales come here all the time from the Southern region. Just two weeks ago 26 humpback whales were seen inside the small gulf. We have to start to think, is it going to be good for the whales having yachts in the water or more people around wanting tours,” said Daniel.
So far 3,976 agree with the association as indicated by the digital petition through avaaz.org, a site for community petitions. The association put it in Spanish, English, German and Italian in hopes of reaching an international audience, members said. Williams said a lot of support comes from persons outside of the area and Costa Rica.
“Looking at the Web site, I’d sign this petition because what they say is very scary. But it is not true,” said Williams.
He adds that they recognize the importance of biodiversity in the area and the marina will be one of the greenest marinas in Costa Rica. This was something the company worked with the non-profit Mar Vista to ensure, he said, adding that the project also will have services such as public fueling and public waste water treatments.
“We will have the first and only water treatment plant to treat grey and black waters from the boats,” said Williams.
Still the association is not buying it.
“They go to the Web site and say it will be sustainable, it will be a green marina, it will improve the environment. The studies they give looks like it was done by a first grade student. Its just stupid,” said Montero.
The environmental association group has used different medias to make their case from Facebook pages to YouTube videos. One video gives the expertise of Austrian marine scientists Jörg Ott. He emphasized the importance of the mangrove.
“The only mangrove stand in the southern part of the Osa Peninsula is that in the area of Puerto Jiménez,” he said in the video. “ This mangrove stand contains all species of mangroves in the area. It is very well developed along the mouth of the river and next to the diversity of mangrove trees it also supports extreme, well developed animal life. For example, it contains populations of the American crocodile and the local cayman and also a fantastic array of bird and reptile species. With this respect, any disturbance to the mangrove areas in the river mouth would be a disastrous thing.”
However, the video has only received two views so far.
The association doesn’t know for certain that the petition will change anything, and Williams says he doubt that it will. However, these members still hold hope that they can stop the development.
“Not very sure what we can do, but we want to let all the people of the community know what is a marina and the effects. The town makes the decision,” Montero said.
The target number of signatures is 5,000 before Sept. 22. That is when the association said it will present the petition during an open meeting in a community meeting hall from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
More information about the petition can be read on this Web site.