By Ellen Zoe Golden Photo: Tamarindo News Files
After concerns for the environment were addressed by experts at the recent Asociacion de Desarollo Integral de Tamarindo (ADI) general assembly, plans for public bathrooms on Tamarindo beach in front of Pico Piqueño are moving forward to the next step in their construction. On March 30, at the Garden Plaza a contingent of people from the community were able to voice their apprehensions to the ADI board and two engineers well versed in the location of water treatment nearby the ocean were able to address those doubts. Afterwards a vote was taken, awarding ADI the confidence to move ahead.
Eduardo Berrocal, from Bionest, a water treatment solutions company, and Diego Rodríguez Galagarza, from the Santa Cruz Municipality, each explained how the water treatment of bathrooms would be handled, and assured the crowd that there was no risk to the environment. Discussion followed, and after over two hours, the group present voted to move ahead with the project in the chosen location.
The architect who designed the facility is Rodolfo Tinoco Pechtel of LSD, who was instrumental in the reconstruction plans for the new lifeguard tower, and the renovations currently ongoing at Oneida Park. According to Tinoco, the structure will have two bathrooms—the women’s outfitted with toilets and sinks, the men’s with toilets, urinals and sinks—as well as a shower, lockers for rent and a bicycle rack. To help fund the cost of a security person to work in the building, the plans call for a commercial space for rent bringing in general income. In addition, there will be wheelchair access.
“The bathrooms are designed in a painted, wooden structure elevated on posts,” explained Tinoco. “The elevation will permit the location of the water treatment facility underneath the bathrooms and this meets the requirements from the company in charge of that, Bionest.”
He added that all of the plans for the public bathroom building were designed to meet the demands of Law 7600.
The location of the bathrooms was a point of contention for many in the Tamarindo community and attendance at the assembly reflected that.
“Originally, the idea was to put the bathroom in the parking lot next to El Vaquero,” said Urs Schmid, president of ADI. “However, with the change in Tamarindo’s regulated plan (Plan Regulador), it was no longer possible to build anything in that location. The ICT and the Municipality are updating that plan. As a result, we had to look for a new location. There was some talk about putting the on the soccer field or in front of the Best Western. ADI has the concession for the land in front of Pico Piqueño, and we thought it would be a benefit to build the public bathrooms there. We wanted them to be as close to the beach as possible where people most needed to use them. “
With this location still to be decided at the meeting, Schmid acknowledged the concerns voiced that this facility near the beach might have a negative impact on the environment, a worry about whether the ground would be in danger of contamination, and what kind of effect this would have on the nearby ocean. Berrocal and Rodriguez took turns at the assembly explaining that there was enough green area in the chosen spot to treat the water without flow into the ocean or the ground around the building.
“They concluded that there was no risk to the environment,” said Schmid
Schmid also explained that ADI’s board felt very strongly that the community have a say in this decision, even as the organization presented their case for the closer beach location by asking “How far are people willing to walk before getting to a bathroom before they just say, ‘I’m going in the ocean’?”
There was also the matter of timing to be considered and discussed. The plans submitted by Tinoco to INDER (Instituto de Desarrollo Rural) were based on studies for the impact and location near Pico Pequeño, and these were the ones approved for funding by the government agency. If another location was chosen by the vote, a new study would need to be made, delaying the budget approval from INDER for a year. ADI was expected to submit the final plans to INDER last month, with final approval from them to come this year, and construction beginning early in 2020. The public bathrooms are set to open around March 2020. A new location submission would mean a March 2021 completion date.
“We wanted a representation of the community voting at the assembly,” Schmid continued “This was a special vote by people who attended as long as we knew they were from Tamarindo. It was not a legal necessity to do that, but with this project we wanted to clarify all doubts for those worried about the environment. Normally a majority wins a vote. However, in this case we wanted a two-thirds approval to continue because we didn’t want a divided community. All in all, 32 people were there for the vote, 30 voted for, 2 voted against and 2 people who were not present voted against.”
“This really confirmed that it was a good idea to invite engineers to clear away doubt and to bring the public contingent out for this,” he added.
Schmid concluded that an additional benefit of the construction will be the generation of jobs. Public bathrooms in Tamarindo are a pilot program for the government. If all goes well, the country is likely to have more of these facilities at various beaches, he said.