After years of demands by residents and tourism operators, one of Costa Rica’s most precious natural treasures is getting a modern, paved highway. According to a recent news article by Roberto Portuguez of news daily La Prensa Libre, the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation (Spanish acronym: MOPT) gave the green light to a highway project that will lead right up to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, considered one of the Earth’s natural lungs.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is a major source of ecotourism and scientific research in Costa Rica. This region contains a good portion of the amazing biodiversity that Costa Rica is known for, which makes it a magnet for tourism. Visitors who arrive in Monteverde often leave slack-jawed at the sheer beauty of the cloud forest, of which they only get to see less than 10 percent -the rest consists of virgin forest land.
Over the last 10 years, the strong ecotourism interest in Monteverde motivated residents of the surrounding communities to demand roadway projects from the government of Costa Rica. These towns include:
- La Guaria
- La Lindora
- Santa Elena
Although these communities belong to the province of Puntarenas, the tourism economy in this region benefits the neighboring Alajuela and Guanacaste provinces as well. According to a tour operator who spoke to La Prensa Libre, the hospitality industry has been asking for paved roads for years; he explained that it is inconceivable for one of Costa Rica’s premier tourist attractions to lack adequate infrastructure.
The first phase of the project will connect the towns of Guacimal and Santa Elena, where the current unpaved “dirt road” becomes impossible to navigate for passenger vehicles during the green (rainy) season. The MOPT has moved heavy machinery into the area and is now working on the blueprints for the drainage and lighting systems. The goal is to have all communities around Monteverde connected by paved roadways in the next few years.
Not everyone in Costa Rica is happy about this news. Nature conservation activists think that this highway project will only lead to further development and thus compromise Monteverde’s status as one of Earth’s most pristine places. The initial portion of the project will cost approximately $2 million.