|Major Sea of Cortez Marina and Resort Projects Underway|
Pat Rains - The Log
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December 13, 2010
Mexico President Felipe Calderon announced plans for a huge new tourist development, including two marinas on the mainland side of the Sea of Cortez.
Described as twice the size of Cancun, the new beachfront development will initially cover 7.5 miles of Sinaloa coastline in an area about 80 miles south of Mazatlan. Stretching over 5,884 acres, the mega-resort will encompass the vast Laguna Agua Grande waterway and several canals, plus the seaside towns of Isla del Bosque and Teacapán at the border with Nayarit.
The fishing port of Teacapán lies about 40 miles north of Isla Isabela, which is a protected nesting zone for frigate birds and blue-footed boobies. Although Isla Isabela is a popular cruising and fishing destination, the tiny island has room for only a handful of oceangoing yachts in two small fair-weather anchorages.
Logistically, new marinas nearby on the Sinaloa mainland would provide recreational boaters with safer berthing, fuel, shelter from bad weather and shorter offshore passages between existing destinations.
The two new marinas will provide a total of 1,000 slips designed “in harmony with the Escalera Nautica marina model,” according to Fonatur, the federal agency tasked with developing tourism infrastructure. Fonatur completed nine other full-service marinas now operating under the Singlar banner, and most of them are currently for sale or have been sold to private investors.
According to Barnard Thompson of Mexidata.info news service, the project is “provisionally called the Pacific Coast Integrally Planned Center.” Thompson said the first phase of the Sinaloa CIP is slated for completion in 2012, and will cost an estimated US$139 million.*
“The final stages of the phased developments are to be completed by 2025,” Thompson said. “This is much the same way that other Fonatur master-planned seaside resorts — such as Cancún, Los Cabos, Ixtapa, Loreto and the Bays of Huatulco — have been done.”
Besides the two big tourist marinas, the plan calls for four golf courses, about 44,200 hotel rooms (including hotels and condominiums), a 5-mile beachfront walk and a light railway (existing rail lines from Mexicali and Nogales, connecting north of Hermosillo, run to Guadalajara), plus a new airport.
“Based on what has been learned from other CIPs such as Cancun,” Thompson reported, “hotels will not be allowed right on the beach. The required buffer zone will be 300 meters. Hotels will also have a maximum height limit of four stories.”
This huge new development “will be in the midst of the Sinaloa National Wetlands, in part on the near-5,000-acre Rancho Las Cabras, owned by former Sinaloa governor Antonio Toledo Corro,” Thompson’s report stated.
“Fishing is big in the region, commercial fishing (and shrimp farming), and of course sportfishing,” the report continued. “Several species of protected sea turtles come to area beaches; and, at sea, among the many species found are billfish, humpback whales and white sharks.
“Of historical significance, there are large oyster shell mounds near Teacapán that experts say were harvested by indigenous peoples living in the area as long as 4,000 years ago,” the report said.
Local fishermen and panga boat operators at first protested against this development, fearing they would not be allowed to chauffeur the avalanche of new tourists to the indigenous villages, historic oyster mounds and other ecological tours. After agreements were reached last year with hundreds of local ejido members, the resort plans have gone forward. But it still has to clear environmental hurdles.
For workers, at least 5,000 homes will be built, along with schools, hospitals and facilities for needed community services.
President Calderon went on to say that the mega-development will ultimately create 78,000 direct and indirect jobs. He estimates the Pacific Coast CIP will attract nearly 3 million tourists by the year 2025 and generate US$2.8 billion in foreign exchange.
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MexiData.info note: Earlier this month Fonatur officials announced that the Mexican government has already budgeted US$30.7 million (at current Mexican peso-US dollar exchange rates) for first stage studies, urbanization projects and some other infrastructure work at the Sinaloa CIP. In 2010, US$20.9 million of those funds were spent. And the total planned investment is now reported to be US$563 million, up from the US$465 million quoted two years ago. – B. Thompson
Capt. Pat Rains is a freelance writer and photographer whose feature articles and columns can be found in major nautical publications. As well, she has published several books on yachting and pleasure boating in Mexico and Central America. The Log newspaper has been California boaters’ top source for in-depth local boating and fishing news since 1971.