by Lady Ann Umana Segura & Gabriela valenzuela
The Asociación Pro Mejoras de Playa Tamarindo (APMT) continues working on its programs to promote the betterment of the community for both residents and visitors. During 2008, the APMT went through a phase of cost reduction that affected its most visible part. The office was closed, and the position of Executive Director had to be eliminated. However, this does not mean that their programs were cancelled. APMT still kept cleaning the beaches, and financing the police and lifeguards programs up to this day.
For several months, they steadily worked on these programs, as well as on constituting the Board for the next term. In January 2009, the Assembly was convened to appoint a new Board, which had to face a quite poor picture. On one side there was the global crisis; and on the other side, developers were concerned about the pronouncing of the Sala Cuarta, in which every construction within the first 500 meters from the beach was halted in order to protect the leatherback turtles.
“The scenario became even more complicated. There are many things against it,” said Federico Amador, the Board’s President, referring to actions that must be taken to continue supporting and maintaining the programs in Tamarindo. “We believe we are experiencing a critical moment, in which we must look for joint solutions among developers, residents, businesses and investors.”
The crisis led to a significant decrease on the contributions of 150 memberships paid last year to less than 20 in the current period.
Only the annual basic cost of the office is of $18,000.00, to that let’s add $36,000.00 for the management of the programs.
Three urgent needs are in danger of disappearing: the cleaning program for Tamarindo to have a decent appearance for residents and visitors; the lifeguard program that ensures the safety of tourists in the sea, and the permanence of the Police, whose work is of vital importance in the area.
The government has not supported the programs and the way to collect this money through the state institutions is never-ending. However, the association has continued with the requests of support to the ministries and the Municipality, while keeping calling for donations for them not to depend on the contributions of residents.
In addition, the “plan regulador” rests at the National Institute of Housing and Urbanism (INVU, in Spanish). The plan will not be processed until settling the $7000-debt owed to consultants who participated with APMT and the municipality to carry out this project.
“About a year ago, we stopped being the voice of Tamarindo before the governmental institutions, public and private organizations, students, visitors, residents and investors. This implies a significant loss of the communication we regularly had with them to find the resources for our community. However, the APMT has maintained regular contact with key institutions in order not to lose the progress made in the projects.”
Then we had to ask the question: Why are developers, business owners and many residents refusing to collaborate with the Association? Federico answered, “There is a conflict of interests. The developers claim that the Association only looks after the interests of residents and that they do not believe that they are receiving the benefits of our work. However, for many years, residents have contributed enormously to maintain all programs that benefit directly or indirectly to all the entrepreneurs, investors and developers in the area. The concern is to keep the programs and help them not to disappear, not if the Association took part or not. We must find common ground for everyone to get involved in the improvements of our people.”
Bruce McKillican gave its own version. His position is interesting because he is both resident and developer. “Only a small percentage of people pays; others do not do it because they disagree with the programs. I am sorry that APMT does not have a good relation with the Municipality. I personally think that there is a serious disconnection between the needs of Tamarindo and the Municipality’s. We, the residents of Tamarindo, are daily paying basic services from our own wallets. The garbage collection, the lifeguard program, the presence of Police officers are all paid from voluntary donations allocated to a tourist destination. The money from tourism generates taxes. But such monies will never come back to Tamarindo. That is out of balance. That is Pro Mejoras struggle”.
Midge Menking, acquainted with the work of the Association, said: “People do not think what would happen if the APMT stops working, if the police leaves town, if there is no one to clean the area, if there were no lifeguards. Many believe that large investors or local government should pay for such services. I have been living here for 30 years, and I do remember when there was garbage everywhere and thieves were not caught. We are about to lose everything that has been achieved. However, I think we have a communication problem. If people knew that there is a new board and would give them a chance to present their proposals, when the crisis passes, I hope they will return to the Association to help. It is necessary to complete all the projects that still require completion. We must give them the opportunity to work and get results.”
Business owners, residents and major investors must be aware that the police, lifeguards and cleanup of Tamarindo are essential to their interests, and ask themselves if they are making their own efforts to preserve them.
Federico said, “There have been some attempts to form organized groups outside the Association aiming at addressing such needs. However, they were stopped due to the prevalence of the different economic interests represented. They could not work together because everyone wanted to ensure that their interests were taking priority.”
At this time, there is the possibility of forming strategic alliances with some groups that could develop the programs. “For example,” said Amador, “we asked the Surfrider Foundation to jointly help us support the beach cleaning service, an important part of the Blue Flag program. Pro Tamarindo Group has been actively involved in building the new police station, as well as maintaining the place they occupy today. The community, including residents, developers, investors and entrepreneurs, should understand that if they do not participate, they are damaging Tamarindo, both the community and our visitors, because we are destroying our tourist destination.”
Finally, APMT has a new website (www.apmtcr.org) to keep the communication with the community. Here you can find all relevant documents to each program, as well as information that has been collected over the years. Currently, the site is only in English but in a few weeks the Spanish version will be published. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Account numbers for donations or memberships are: # 200-02-145-000762-7 at Banco Nacional and # 907345920 at BAC San José.