Adios Estuary :'(

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Sunrise over city park, with the new Avenida de la Bahía in the foreground

For eons Mazatlán has been the land of the estuary—brackish water, half fresh and half salt, that rises and falls with the tides. There used to be estuaries all over Mazatlán, from south to north, brimming with shrimp and mangroves, home to turtles and a myriad species of birds, but sadly not many remain. Most have been filled in completely, like those in the Golden Zone, which leads to the frequent flooding of that area in rainy season. Now we are losing Estero del Camarón, shown on the map below (as Laguna del Cameron), which runs south from Rafael Buelna over Insurgentes to the Aquarium at Av de los Deportes, thanks to the building of Avenida de la Bahía.

estero map

Avenida de la Bahía has been in the city’s plans for over a decade; it’s nothing new. What is new is that most everyone believed the road would be built in the “set aside” behind the existing buildings along Avenida del Mar. There was plenty of room beside the estuary for two lanes of traffic plus parking on both sides. Thus, when it was announced that the long-planned road would be built, there wasn’t too much ruckus.

People who live on Avenida del Mar are grateful to have a second egress, as this major city artery is so frequently closed due to races and other events. We actually, naïvely, were pleased to think that those who had “stolen” land from the estuary—hotels and salones de eventos that had “pushed out” into the estuary—would now have to give up that appropriated land in order for the road to be built.

Alas, no such luck. Despite the fact that city park is supposedly a wild bird sanctuary —”protected land,” we’ve always been told— construction of the new Avenida de la Bahía doesn’t even start till way beyond the land that we were told was set aside for the new road. Contractors have spent six weeks now filling in OVER HALF of the estuary facing the Bosque de la Ciudad/City Park! They have been working 24 hours a day seven days a week, dredging the estuary of plant life, then dumping trucks full of huge boulders into the water, dozens of truckloads per hour. They add dirt over the boulders, and cement on top of that. First they built two lanes, which we thought was bad enough; then four. Now they are adding diagonal parking on the west side and possibly more on the east. It just keeps getting wider and wider! The road is now wider than a freeway. After removing all the parking from Avenida del Mar, of course more parking is needed. But does the estuary have to pay the price? Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

The way they have built the new avenue actually leaves water trapped in between it and the Avenida del Mar—water that will attract mosquitoes and disease. I can only imagine they’ve left that area so that property owners (primarily the Tellería family, I believe) can build locales or storefronts facing the planned Parque Central.

The entire project is the most blatant disregard of our environment that I have witnessed. I was told the project was stopped, put in amparo, and according to the Noroeste, that is when they started working at night instead of during the day. A few days later they extended from night work to 24-7 work, and about ten days ago they put up signs that say they are taking care of the environment. I find the irony heartbreaking.

They are now within a couple hundred yards of Insurgentes. To my knowledge they have yet to buy any of the houses they will have to knock down to connect the new avenue with Insurgentes and continue north to Rafael Buelna. Eminent domain?

That housing area already floods in rainy season, as does the area in front of the Gran Plaza. I imagine now that they’ve reclaimed over half of the estuary, the area around the stadium, city park, Insurgentes and the Gran Plaza will flood much more dangerously; where is the water to go at high tide? They have built the road up high, to keep it from flooding. But we sure haven’t seen them build any exit for flood waters. Hopefully I’m just missing something.

Mazatlán’s allure for tourists and residents is its natural beauty, its marine life and seafood. Destruction of the environment like this is shortsighted. I was excited about Central Park and the new Mazatlán Museum, but if losing our estuary is the price we are paying for them, it is way too high.

New Museum of Mazatlán

PROYECTO DE MUSEO DE MAZATLÁN (9) You know how excited I am about the plans for upgrading the Bosque de la Ciudad into Mazatlán Parque Central—I wrote about it back in December. This gorgeous park will serve as an anchor between the historic downtown and the tourist zone, and connect the oceanside promenade/malecón with the estuary/Estero del Camarón. I repost a few of those photos below; click on any picture to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Today I received an update on the Museo de Mazatlán that will be the main feature on the northern side of the gorgeous park. It has been designed by Siete Colores Ideas Interactivas and architect Fernando Romero—who also recently won the bid to design Mexico City’s new airport (he also designed the Soumaya Museum)!

The 20,000 square meter museum will be in the form of a pearl, in recognition of Mazatlán’s nickname as the “Pearl of the Pacific.” I am very supportive, but I will say that to me the design looks more like a UFO/spaceship than a pearl… The building will have two stories and a view to the ocean. It will be green construction, built sustainably. I sure hope that’s true, because we have so very little left of our precious estuary here in town, and that estuary is key to the beauty of Central Park! Don’t get me started on why the city permitted building in front of the Gran Plaza, a project which has already partially filled in Estero del Camarón.

Plans for the museum include interactive multimedia exhibits. The ground floor will be dedicated to the people of southern Sinaloa: the history of our city, customs, traditions and cultural identity. The second floor will focus on the principal trades of Sinaloa, including agriculture, cattle, fishing, and tourism.

First floor features that are most exciting to me include an 18 x 24 meter IMAX screen with laser projection, a shrimp boat simulator, and a virtual street that will transport the visitor to Carnavál de Mazatlán—enabling us to interact with the event, see the gorgeous floats in the parade, dance with the comparsa troupes, wave to the royalty, and otherwise enjoy the annual festivities in simulated reality.

Rounding out the ground floor are 2900 square meters of permanent exhibition space, a round exhibition hall for the major themes of the museum, a travel agency from where tourists can depart on tours of Mazatlán and the surrounding area, a store filled with high quality regional handicrafts, and a bookstore dedicated to our regional heritage.

The second floor will have a terrace with a panoramic view of the Pacific, a restaurant featuring regional delicacies, a regionally-themed fast food outlet, the city’s historical archive, and training rooms for the development of tourism professionals. Miranda Servitje, President of Siete Colores, reports that INAH (Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History) has agreed to support the museum with exhibitions on Mexican archeology and history.

Neto Coppel Kelly, the visionary behind the project, feels Central Park and the Mazatlán Museum will strengthen the identity of Mazatlán and help generate new touristic offerings, thereby contributing to the welfare and economic growth of our city. State Secretary of Tourism, Francisco Córdova, says this is the type of infrastructure project that Mazatlán and Sinaloa need to keep growing and strengthening. Involved in the project, which has been over two years in the planning thus far, are Fideicomiso Unión Mazatlán and the municipal, state and federal governments.

I support this effort in major part because of the ecology of the area. In the seven years we have lived in front of the Bosque, we have seen hotels, party salons, stores and condo complexes claim land from the estero. This is protected land! But, in effect, I’ve seen that it goes unprotected. It is my sincere hope that developing the park area will ensure ecological conservation, rather than ruin, of the estuary.

Click here to see inside designs for the museum, and further information.