After a year of hard work, the Costa Rican NGO Rutas Naturbanas has eagerly announced that construction is set to begin on the first stretch of the project’s planned 25-kilometer ecological urban pathway throughout San José. The process of building the first kilometer, already fully financed and designed, will begin following a month-long period during which members of the public are invited to comment on the plans.
The ambitious riverwalk seeks to eventually connect three key San José locations: La Sabana Park on the western side of the city, La Paz Park to the south, and the sports facilities of the University of Costa Rica to the east. The goal of the initiative is to allow people to walk, bike, run or skate across the city on riverbank paths.
At a press conference at the Hotel Presidente, in downtown San José, Rutas Naturbanas’s co-founders revealed that the first kilometer will connect Barrio Escalante – specifically, the bridge known as the Puente de los Incurables – with the Simón Bolívar Zoo in Barrio Amón. The construction of this first kilometer will be completely financed by the Costa Rican construction company H. Solís.
In addition to H. Solís, Rutas Naturbanas sponsors include Dentons Muñoz, Hotel Presidente, the Costa Rica USA Foundation for Cooperation (CRUSA), Fílmika Producción y Postproducción, Tree Interactive, Kracol, Eureka Comunicación and Findasense.
A year ago, Rutas Naturbanas was only an idea created by Federico Cartín (SUM Consulting), Dana Víquez and José Vargas (PPAR Studio), Alonso Briceño (Río Urbano), Carlos Velázques (Amigos del Río Torres), Henry Bastos (GAM Cultural), Roberto Guzmán (Chepecletas), and Giancarlo Pucci (Árboles Mágicos). They set out to turn San José’s neglected waterways into a major asset in the quest for urban renewal by transforming land along the Torres and María Aguilar Rivers into a natural corridor through the capital.
Now, this group has managed to create a public private alliance between the central government, municipalities including San José and Goicoechea, local urban collectives, H. Solís, and, most importantly, Costa Rican citizens.
“A year ago, citizens were invited to take a look at its rivers, stop turning their backs on them, and remember that a few kilometers away from here, at the Torres River, there still are sloths, toucans and many other species. They remind us these rivers are still alive and that there’s a possibility to connect the city through its rivers,” Giancarlo Pucci said.
The first phase of the project was carried out by PPAR Studio. During this phase the characteristics of the proposed pathways were meticulously studied in order to develop routes that do not interfere with the surrounding nature and facilitate transit in the most natural way possible.
PPAR architects José Vargas and Dana Víquez said at the press conference that after studying the topography and trees in the area, they developed a plan for the infrastructure that match the river’s terrain and vegetation. Each tree was classified by its size, maturity and biological contribution in order to avoid cutting down trees during the construction of the pathway.
The first section of the pathway will be 3.5 meters wide and 2.5 meters high, with minimal impact on the landscape, taking advantage of the pathway’s natural assets. These include a forested area in which people will walk in the shade, a colorful area with intense flower blooms, and a more tropical area with characteristic Costa Rican vegetation.
“Rutas Naturbanas is, for our management, the representation of our most important value: a legacy. Leaving our children a better society in which they can live,” said H. Solís Director Roberto Acosta. “To help create a city in which we can really enjoy the rivers, teach [children] to protect them and take care of them. A place in which we can find that perfect balance between development and sustainability.”
Throughout the project, the support from local neighbors, public institutions and businesses has been a key element. The first kilometer alone required the approval of the landowners along the path, including Carlos María Ulloa Elderly Home, the Public Works and Transport Ministry (MOPT), the Colegio México, the INVU, the Polideportivo in Aranjuez, Fundazoo, the Brenes, Ruzisca and Paz families, Instagreen, Spirogyra butterfly farm, and Medical Corp S.A.
This is just the beginning of a bigger dream for Rutas Naturbanas Director Federico Cartín.
“Today marks the beginning of a dream in which a group of citizens bet on a crazy idea and it’s becoming a reality. For those of us who are part of the project, it’s a beautiful story of collaboration and union,” Cartín said at Wednesday’s event. “Rutas Naturbanas and Costa Rica prove today that we can work together: NGOs, civil organizations, neighbors, private businesses and the public institutions. We can work together and do beautiful things.
“We’re capable of really directing our own destiny and take responsibility for the country we have and we want to leave behind,” Cartín said.
“Today this project becomes a reality, because in between intelligence and reason, there’s something very important called passion,” said San José Mayor Johnny Araya.
Finally, Environment and Energy Minister Edgar Gutiérrez said that Rutas Naturbanas’ accomplishments could mark a significant change in the way public policy is implemented.
“You should feel very proud, because you’ve changed a paradigm,” Gutiérrez said. “Today we’re witnessing a historic alliance that creates public policies in an intersectional and participative manner.”
For more information, or to comment on the plans, visit the project’s website. If you’d like to contribute to the initiative, you can donate money to the following BAC accounts:
Fundación Rutas Naturbanas
Cédula Jurídica: 3-006-709379
Banco América Central (BAC)
E-mail: [email protected]