Denver, CO (PRWEB) June 23, 2012
The Laguna del Lagarto Lodge is celebrating its 20th anniversary and was one of the first hotels to lead the charge for ecotourism in Costa Rica. When it first opened its doors in 1992 the lodge proved it could have a powerful impact on residents and tourists alike.
In 1974 the German international banker Vinzenz Schmack found himself accepting a job transfer to Costa Rica and in 1981 he was able to fulfill a lifelong goal of owning a large piece of land. He purchased 275 acres of primary rain forest in the northern zone near a small hamlet called Boca Tapada for $5,000 (USD).
Locals quickly dubbed Vinzenz the “crazy German” and they weren’t the only ones. Schmack’s Guatemalan wife refused to go inspect the property. When Vinzenz asked his wife, “but I thought you said you would go to the end of the world with me?” she was quick to respond, “I didn’t realize the end of the world was so close.”
At the time of the lands’ purchase the public electricity line was 10 miles away and there were no phones. The only way to reach the property was with a 4W drive vehicle with snow chains on the tires during the dry season and by horseback during the rainy season.
Eventually his wife did go to the newly purchased land and now the looming question of what to do with it began to linger. After several years of unproductive, experimental agricultural ventures Schmack was still not sure what to do with his property.
For several years Schmack basically did nothing with the land believing that the right idea would come to mind. He resisted the temptation to sell the trees to loggers and sawmills and finally in 1989 at a cocktail party in San Jose his friend helped him discover the lands purpose.
The idea was to convert the land into a reserve and make it accessible to tourists interested in nature. This idea was a risky venture due to the complete lack of infrastructure and rugged terrain of the land.
However, Schmack was determined to succeed drawing on the strength of the possibility to contribute to the development of the area, provide employment opportunities to a region decimated with unemployment, and protect the rain forest all at the same time.
And succeed he did.
In 1992 he officially opened Laguna del Lagarto Lodge. After two years of extensive lobbying the community and the lodge finally received public electricity. Schmack paid for the final mile out of his own pocket and received a plaque of recognition from the village for his determination and financial contributions.
In 1999 after similar efforts the lodge got the areas first telephone line. Not only was Schmack able to help bring new infrastructure to the area but also his lodge created jobs for nine area residents.
But to leave it at nine residents getting jobs is a gross understatement. Schmack has provided international education opportunities for many of his employees and has also given loans to area residents that allowed them to start their own prosperous businesses.
Schmack is a member of the Rotary Club of San Jose and has played an important part in bringing Rotary members from the United States to do a variety of social projects, including free three-day dental clinics, school supplies, painting and refurbishing the school desks, donations of medical supplies, and on a grant of $22,000 the two schools of Boca Tapada and Santa Rita received computers.
A month away from turning 78 Schmack is now pretty much retired and has passed the lodge on to his son Kurt. The “crazy German” has proven how tourism can contribute to the development of a poor isolated area, how local people, through this example, have learned to value the richness of the rainforest and how he, in some way, has contributed to the awareness, that to maintain and preserve the rainforest for future generations, can be more profitable than cutting it down and, thus, destroying its beauty with all its exuberant flora and fauna.
Interviewed and released by the Costa Rican travel agent LatinExplore.