By Steve Medcroft
The four-hundred or so competitors in last week's La Ruta de los Conquistadores weren't the only top-level mountain bikers in Costa Rica. Former U.S. National Champion and self-proclaimed downhill goddess Marla Streb was spotted at the La Ruta sidelines. She was in Cost a Rica to scout locations for a planned mountain-bike vacation park.
"We got the idea last year while I was racing La Ruta," Streb said by email Tuesday afternoon. "It's so beautiful and there's something special about riding through the jungle with all the exotic animals and plants. There are plenty of dirt (mud) roads to ride. Unlike hiking, you can really get into the deep forest on a bike."
Streb says she and husband Marc Fitzgerald are planning to turn a parcel of forest and turn it into a mountain-bike destination. "Instead of a touring company, that takes the riders from point to point, we plan a lodge and private trail system in a hub and spoke format. We'll have private singletrack with some north shore style stunts in the rainforest. From the lodge location, there (will be) miles and miles of challenging dirt (& mud) roads and ocean views and easy beach access. The 4X4's get stuck all the time. It will be all-inclusive pricing that will include new model year high end full suspension XC bikes and pro mechanic support. Jungle night rides. Healthy and organic food, as well as the other kind ...fried. Daily laundry, bike wash, and body massage. Horses, surf and boogie boards, etc. I'll also conduct skills clinics and lead some rides but we want it to be self-directed; you can ride all day, or sleep on the beach all day. Accommodations will be in private jungle cabins, solar powered, as green as possible. Boutique in scale accommodating up to 20 guests for 3 to 5-day visits."
Streb says the park would cater to tourists from "the North American and European market. The idea is that we'll be open for riding during the winter season when most places are closed back home. We'd like to attract riders of all types from beginner to serious. Women and couples too. Anyone interested in adventure travel and eco-touring."
Streb and Fitzgerald have been working on the business plan for some time and have both settled on the general area for the park and put together some personal financing. "After we conclude the purchase of the property, I'll consider taking on some limited partners to acquire more land but right now we're looking at forming a non-profit to operate the park. I've also spoken with IMBA and they're really interested in using our park as a model for trail building for the rest of Costa Rica's national park system. We're also building a web site for marketing and sales."
Besides the land and forests, the park would take advantage of Costa Rica's human resources as well. "Part of the plan is to employ the local population and help out the local economy by using the forest's natural resources in a sustainable and ecological way. The trails and will be built (by locals) under IMBA (and my) supervision."
Streb says she hopes to have the park open for the 2006 winter season. Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for more information as it becomes available.