Q COSTA RICA – The indefinite closure of the Poas Volcano National Park has impeded the inauguration of the recent improvements made to the park, valued at ¢763 million colones (US$1.362 million dollars).
The national park was closed and a ‘green’ alert issued for five cantons (districts) of Alajuela by the Comisión Nacional de Emergencias (CNE) – national emergency commission, due to the continuous phreatic eruptions at the Poas volcano since Thursday (April 13) of Easter Week (Semana Santa).
The volcano became active at the beginning of April, spewing out ash and gases. It was during Semana Santa that the volcano’s eruptions became violent and constant.
Thus the inauguration of the improvements that had been scheduled for April 28 have been put on hold until tourist access can resume at the most visited volcano in the country.
The date (or reopening) is still uncertain.
Rafael Gutierrez, executive director of the Sistema Nacional de Áreas de Conservación (Sinac) – National System of Conservation Areas (Sinac) – explained that the improvements include amphitheaters, viewpoint platforms at the principal crater and Botos lagoon, trains, parking and lunch areas.
In addition, with municipal support, sewage and storm water treatment plants were built.
The eruptions that began at the beginning of April has affected the an area some 600 meters from the main crater, damaged by stones breaking glass, as well as damage to the trails and railings at the lookout point. The stones, however, did not reach the tourist center some 800 meters from the crater.
The trails are layered with ash, as the parking lot and the roofs of stations around the park.
The danger is that the size, and the force of the expulsion, of the falling rocks are capable of causing death to a person
Gutierrez added that the damage can repaired within a week’s time, but it all depends on the behavior of the volcano.
The official said the rains of this past week have cleared ash off the nearby vegetation, but the acidity of the volcanic material could continue to cause damage.
Currently, squirrels and birds, such as the vulcanus junco, yigi and woodpeckers, are being closely monitored by the park rangers in their inspections.
The closure of the national park has meant a loss to the Sinac of around ¢100 million colones (US$178,500 dollars) weekly.
The park (when open) sees daily visits by tourists directly, on tours arranged by travel agencies, as well as primary and secondary schools countrywide.
The flow of people to the park also generates income for restaurants, souvenir shops, including the famous sale of strawberries and other nearby businesses. A prolonged closure could result in the loss of jobs and even permanent closing of some businesses.