By: Arianna McKinney, Vozdeguanacaste | The Municipality of Nicoya is currently conducting studies to open a roadway to connect the beaches of Barrigona and Barco Quebrado, as well as a road to connect the smaller beaches of Pavones and Bajo Escondido, between Barco Quebrado and Garza, according to Mayor Marco Antonio Jimenez Muñoz.
Citing article 23 of Law 6043 regarding the Maritime Land Zone, the mayor affirms that the municipality must act in order to ensure that all Costa Ricans have access to these beaches, which are public areas.
Currently there are public roads that give access to the beaches of Barrigona and to Barco Quebrado, but the mayor wants to open a roadway to connect the two beaches to each other. The area where the road would be opened borders the beachfront property owned by actor Mel Gibson. Jimenez affirmed that Gibson has closed access in an “irregular and improper way” and that “this is absolutely illegal” since the land belongs to the state and the municipality.
The mayor said he has been in contact with representatives of Gibson regarding opening passage “but they say they are not in agreement.”
Other neighbors also expressed to The Voice their disagreement and concern about the project, claiming that the lands there are protected forests and that opening a road is a means to later develop the beach areas.
Norma Rodriguez, from the regional office of SINAC, the Tempisque Area of Conservation (ACT), was unaware of the municipal project to open access to the beaches. However, she noted that roads cannot be opened through mangrove areas around the beaches, although other parts of the maritime zone are under the jurisdiction of the municipality.
Rodriguez related that a few years ago, a group of people were taking steps to declare a refuge in the areas of Barrigona and Barco Quebrado, with the previous owner of Gibson’s property, but the process was never completed, as far as she knows.
Bill White and his wife Lin have lived in the only house located at Barco Quebrado beach for 19 years and say the house was built in 1941. Their property extends to Pavones Beach. White said representatives of the municipality and the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) visited the area before Christmas, at which time some posts and trees near the entrance to their property were marked with paint, and the legal representative of the property received a call from the mayor on Thursday, January 23, informing them of plans to open access to Pavones and other beaches between Barco Quebrado and Garza. White said he has protected this property through MINAE.
White commented that he doesn’t think anything should be done to open access until a regulatory plan is approved and an opportunity is given for input from the public as well as from the Costa Rican Institute of Tourism (ICT).
Jimenez maintains that access to these beaches must be provided regardless of whether there is a regulatory plan. However, he did assure that the municipality would have to wait to develop the area since the law indicates that a regulatory plan is required for development.
Jimenez noted that these beaches have become landlocked by neighboring properties. “People have wanted to extend their lands with lands that are of public domain,” Jimenez claimed. “We are guaranteeing Costa Ricans that we are complying with the law.”
The mayor said studies are being conducted by the municipal maritime zone department in conjunction with the Ministry of Environment (MINAE) and they have already visited the site. Once elaborated, the study will be passed on to the technical roadways unit to examine the technical aspects of the project. He mentioned that the municipal agreements and directive already exist for the project, the studies should be completed by the end of March and he hopes to open access to the beaches during the second quarter of 2014.
Juan Carlos Oviedo Quesada, coordinator of the municipal maritime zone department, explained that the law gives municipalities authority to provide access to the maritime zone where there aren’t roads and said they are coordinating with MINAE when it comes to issues like trees that might have to be cut down. “The mayor wants to open access where the possibility exists to generate resources for the municipality,” he remarked.