In Costa Rica, it takes a community to build a bridge

It took five years, but Saturday a small community in southern Costa Rica finally got a replacement bridge spanning the Río San Ramón River.

The site is about 5 miles northwest of San Isidro de El General. More than 40 residents for whom the bridge provides a much shorter route to a nearby medical clinic, stores and churches, came together for the celebratory dedication ceremony at the western end of the span.

The mayor of San Isidro, Vera Corales, who helped fund the project, also attended.

Joining the mayor was Luis Valverde, who has been a catalyst for numerous infrastructure improvements in the locality since his arrival 25 years ago. Valverde maneuvered through ever-changing requirements and promises from government bureaucrats for over four years before receiving project approval. Ten months later, the bridge was in place.

The city donated an engineer to oversee construction and provided some materials, but as is usual in Costa Rica, the community put up the lion’s share with weekly donations of money and construction labor. The new bridge is far superior to the one it replaced. The span was increased by 33 percent and the larger piers were set two meters below the riverbed. The chance of another washout is now slim.

The previous suspension bridge, built in 1994, survived Hurricane César in July 1996 and Pacific cyclone Alma in May 2007. It washed out, however, during a particularly forceful rainstorm just four months later. Residents salvaged cable and pylons from the remains of that bridge to construct a rickety, lurching footbridge, which still sways next to the new red span.

The new bridge is named Puente Kiko Chacón for Valverde’s father-in-law who died last January.

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