What just a few years ago was an empty lot in the community of Tamarindo, Santa Cruz is now the place where local entrepreneurs, neighbors and tourists gather and hold the farmers market every Saturday.
The farmers market used to be held on a property that the Tamarindo Integral Development Association (ADI) borrowed, but last year the ADI convinced the local government to give them a public lot for the market. It’s an agreement in which the city allows the community organization to take charge of managing and maintaining the lot without ceding legal control.
Now, as they boost their local economy, residents enjoy a space that belongs to them that was once completely abandoned. They were able to do the same last year with Oneida Park, located in the heart of Tamarindo, and with the soccer field, where they started a soccer school for children.
The association wants to be the “guardian” of these lots and Santa Cruz City Hall supports it. On September 10, they signed an agreement to continue this project with five additional lots.
Elineth Espinoza, a resident of the community, says that reviving public spaces has brought satisfaction to the community. They are happy.
We don’t have a public school here, but now, for example, on weekends you see children in the park and on Saturdays a lot of people, even tourists, go and buy goods at the farmers market,” Espinoza says “It’s a meeting place for the community. It’s accessible for everyone and it doesn’t discriminate.”
For Santa Cruz municipal president Omar Cruz, these projects are useful for promoting development in communities that doesn’t depend solely on the city, but depends on the district, which is more familiar with internal realities.
“When I see organizations eager to present projects that would normally be the city’s responsibility, I feel that we are on the right path and that the lots are being used well,” Cruz said.
How Have They Done It?
“In order to develop projects we need land,” says ADI administrative assistant Leonardo Cascante, who led the project they call “revival of public spaces.” “That’s how the idea to identify public city lots started.
Municipal lots are property of local governments, but in many cases they are abandoned because city halls don’t maintain all of the lots they are oversee
In December 2017, the association got lucky and met officials from the National Registry who were in Santa Cruz mapping out public zones. The ADI took advantage of the opportunity to request information from them about the district’s municipal lots.
They even printed a map for us,” says Cascante. “We started to progressively find out about the other ones through the National Registry’s website.”
Anyone can find out through the National Registry website who owns a lot, its size and what it can be used for by simply registering with a username and password.
The Santa Cruz land registry and topography department also become a source for the association. That’s where all of the canton’s properties are registered.
“We had to make a lot of visits, but they were always open with us and helped out with information,” Cascante says. “They gave us the land use description and a sketch of the lot. That’s how we created a file where we identified each lot and now we have the DNA of each one; a sketch, location, boundaries and land use,” he said.
The ADI was able to build an inventory of 40 municipal lots in the Tamarindo district. They requested permission to manage five of these lots in addition to the other five that they are already oversee
To select them, they considered the association’s economic capacity to maintain the lots, each one’s location and their legal use. This last factor dictates what projects can be developed, whether its a park, green zone or a plot for building community centers.
“We said, the association has a project for building public parks, so those are useful to us. The common area is useful so that in the future we can build a community center, for example,” says Cascante.
A Step Toward Responsibility
On August 7, with the lots identified and selected, the association had a meeting with the Santa Cruz City Council. During the meeting, they presented their project for reviving public spaces to the mayor and city representatives.
It was important for the ADI to demonstrate the work they had done with other lots that the city had previously managed. They presented their work on the soccer school, the farmers market and Oneida Park.
The ADI drafted the agreement that representatives approved and the mayor signed.
For Leonardo Cascante, it’s clear that it’s advantageous for his community to develop projects like these.
The association does a good job because there is support from the community and strong economic growth that allows us to receive donations to develop projects like these,” he said. “I feel that the development associations are a fundamental part of managing these lots, but we have to be in agreement (on economic capacities). It’s not easy and it’s not cheap.”
According to Cascante, it’s fundamental to give the proper use to each lot. For example, they are thinking about developing a community center with classrooms, a conference room and an office for the ADI on one of the lots registered as a common area. They want to give proper maintenance to and beautify those registered as parks.
“It’s a logistical challenge”, he says. A challenge that the ADI has accepted in order to turn around the lots that belong to the whole community.