Nosara, General, Lifestyle

Nosara Old Days- Moving On

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As the 70’s moved on, Nosara life became not so much a succession of years with precise dates but a collection of people and episodes sharply etched in memory.

We flew in one time with a man proudly showing us what he claimed to be the first calculator. This same fellow was planning a house in the hills for his aged father – in those days I thought that 70 was aged.  In a place with hardly any infrastructure, no telephones and only occasional electricity, this house was designed to have a pool and air conditioning and all the latest conveniences. It is fortunate that the father passed on before he was installed in solitary splendor on the mountain.

One year, a retired couple from New Jersey appeared at Club Pacifico (in an earlier piece I misnamed it as Hotel Playas de Nosara, the modern reincarnation).  These folks, who had no vehicle and did not know how to drive, had a house under construction in Section A by a man named Merritt Conway. They had somehow managed to ship down all their dark mahogany furniture, books and paintings.  Jim Rondigen fetched them back and forth from their dream house all that season but it was abandoned within a year and lives on as a skeleton.

A contractor, remarkably sexist even for those times, and also from New Jersey, showed up with his abused wife, a woman who planned on opening, so help me, a boutique. The contractor loudly shared elaborate plans with all who could not escape, but unlike most of his ilk, actually built a house in Section C that has been occupied to this very day. This pair never returned.

Hutchinson brought down a tennis pro from Long Island and, walking idly by one day, I found them laying out the community courts that to this day are the best designed ones in the Nosara area. With very few players in those days, the system would have collapsed but for the years of a labor of love provided by early settlers, Dos and Maury Elstun. Long after Maury died, Dos kept tennis alive and today she is honored by the annual Dos Elstun Memorial Tournament at the thriving Nosara Tennis Club.

By the mid-70’s things started to fall apart and relations between Hutchinson and the pioneers grew toxic. He had promised a golf course -hah! – he had promised that all the grass lands north of the oxcart road near Pelada would be forever wild -hah! – in lieu of back pay he was owed, Hutchinson gave all that land, and much more elsewhere,  to Jim Rondigen. He had promised much that he couldn’t deliver and he was gone and the Club Pacifico had collapsed. The Beaches of Nosara was in big trouble but somehow survived.

Faced with no functioning developer, with no municipal government, including police service, no reliable electrical service or water or road maintenance, the gritty originals formed the Nosara Civic Association in 1975, the same NCA that just celebrated its 40th anniversary and is largely responsible for the fact that Nosara is still largely green and has not yet experienced the high rise, on-the beach monster hotels that cover the rest of Guanacaste. We then raised money to fight in court Hutchinson’s failures to deliver and, lo and behold, we won the Breach of Contract suit and so was born “Amigos de Nosara”, essentially a holding company for the Hutchinson properties we had won. Over the years these properties became parklands and lots, largely delivered to the NCA. This being Nosara, and in spite of several court decisions favoring the NCA, the ownership of these lands remains in dispute.

An ongoing concern was that the Club Pacifico having collapsed, there was no central place to define the Beaches of Nosara. So, some public spirited denizens got together under the leadership of people like Will Scarlett and George Baumunk and George Miller and formed a company designed to build the Hotal Playas de Nosara, a place they hoped would also serve as a community center of sorts. They hired John Fraser and Gene Talboy to build and manage the new building, sold shares at $800 each – we had three and were bought out by Fraser years ago – and construction started, I believe in 1979. By the time the Hotel was open for business in the early 80’s, Talboy was gone and Fraser, leading a weak and compliant Board, was running a dysfunctional hotel on one of the grandest sites in Guanacaste. To this day, no longer operating, but uncompleted towers soaring, and apparently going through a new building phase right now.

It could never be determined if the Hotel Playas de Nosara was in the process of being built up or being torn down. The last act has yet to be played but some of the early scenes are priceless.