New Caribbean land law is a dream for developers

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Excuse me, Costa Rica, but you broke your word.

I did everything that you asked of me to move here as a pensionado.  I started my resident application before I came.  I gathered all the documents and signatures.  I followed the rules.  I left every 90 days until I had my cédula.  I have my Social Security check direct deposited here.  I spend my money locally.  I pay into the Caja.  I got all the legal inspection and tax stickers for vehicles and the driver’s licenses and health insurance.

I researched Costa Rica before I retired.  I was so impressed by some of the very progressive and forward looking laws made to preserve the environment and provide a living for the inhabitants here.  I love that people can move into vacant homes and use them for shelter.  I loved that there was no standing army that over 25 percent of the land was in parks or preserves, that from the sea you were not supposed to be able to see any lights or homes.

I especially loved the Puerto Viejo to Manzanillo area.  The Caribbean sea was more gentle than the Pacific side.  There were trees like huge old growth forest trees and giant wetland trees that you could circle with six people holding hands.  The crossroads of Puerto Viejo were dotted with an eclectic variety of foods (Chinese, Thai, pizza, fish, barbeque…) and surfer/hippie/Bob Marley music and tie-dyed merchandise came out of many beachfront grass shack stalls.

Five miles away, nestled between the maritime zone and the Gandoca Preserve, I found a paradise of nature and wildlife.  I built my home here.

Gradually, with time, some of the magic was diminished.  When I first walked on the beach I had to mark certain trees or outcroppings so I could find the path off the beach.  Now there are cars on the beach, benches, walkways lights, etc.  Little by little that feeling of being back in time has been eroded.

Now greed and corruption has managed to put forward a new law that is the developers’ dream.  It eliminates from the preserve the strip of land by the coast from Cocles to Manzanillo, thereby opening up to be another “US Highway 1 – Key West Annex”!

If this law remains unchallenged, the natural beauty that I and many others have come here for will be replaced by manicured lawns and mono cultures of coconut palms.  The “poor” people that the law was supposed to protect will be driven out by expensive requirements to come into environmental compliance.

I suggest that this is not why I came here.  Already overdevelopment has stressed the available water source.   If I wanted a hot, unshaded beach with no natural vegetation, no wildlife, no peace, no solitude, I could have stayed in Palm Beach County, Florida.  The people here are acting as though this law will be unchallenged.  Local property owners all of a sudden are wearing suits and carrying brief cases.  The undergrowth has been cleared for a view in so many areas.  Trees mysteriously die.  Crabs disappear.  Sloths and iguanas are eaten by dogs, coastal wetlands are ditched, drained and used for vegetative dumping grounds.   Raw sewage is trickled into the canals that go into the beach.  You have heard it before, but you really are “killing the goose that laid the golden egg.”  And you are breaking trust with me!

Carol Meeds
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
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