Dilemma Caused by Unpaved Road in Playa Santa Teresa Arrives at the New York Times

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While Costa Rica’s tourism officials spend millions telling the world how “esencial” Costa Rica is, images like the above published in the New York Times have a greater impact.

Published on Thursday Sept 5 in the New York Times Travel section, is the story about Santa Teresa’s unpaved roads by Dave Seminara, titled “In a Costa Rican Beach Town, the Road Less Paved”.

In the article, Seminara narrated his visit to Costa Rica an the problems caused by the inevitable truth lived daily by residents and visitors alike, many forced to “wearing surgical masks, bandannas or scarves over their noses and mouths to avoid inhaling the dust, and even the products in a nearby grocery store seemed to be coated in it. In the dry season, the dust is unavoidable, and in the rainy season, the road is a muddy soufflé.”

After years of unfulfilled promises and delays, the local municipality started preliminary work on paving a three-mile stretch of road through town in June and indicated that another four-mile section would be paved at a later date. But many residents are skeptical that the road will be properly paved.

Seminara said that most of the locals, who he spoke to are in favour of paving the road to combat the dust, which, several of those he talked with said, is the source of severe respiratory issues for a number of people. But others said they believed that paving the road could invite the kind of over development that has plagued other beach towns, like Jacó and Tamarindo.

Tamarindo paved its roads in 2004 and is now derisively referred to as “Tamagringo” by those who avoid big resorts and package-tour vacations, writes Seminara.

“Travelers don’t want the places they love to change,” said Daniel Fesenmaier, a professor at Temple University’s School of Tourism and Hospitality Management. “But that’s not realistic. The pioneers who discover a place might go away because they want to find someplace new, but another group will come in behind them, and that’s a huge market.”

The photojournalist finished his chronicle explaining that it is easy to see why the development of the area can inspire such different passions.

Seminara found an intangible quality in Santa Teresa that is not easy to define, and according to him, that is the reason why many foreigners disenchanted with the lifestyle, come on vacation and never leave: are enchanted by the idea of living a simpler life.