Friday, November 01, 2013

Harbour town of Vueltas to get overdue revamp

The ever-popular cosmopolitan and bohemian harbour town of Vueltas in Valle Gran Rey   which boasts the area's only safe sandy beach and offers quirky shops, cafes, bars and restaurants while fishermen go about their daily business, is finally to get a long-overdue revamp with complete pedestrianisation of its central main road from the harbour to the top of the town.Today it still presents itself in a fairly neglected state with hardly any street lights, no litter bins and very little greenery. The pavements are too elevated and  constricted, forming an obstacle course that forces pedestrians onto the narrow road. Prams and wheelchairs can't be navigated at all on the pavements and the general state of the infrastructures is one of decay and disorganisation while all the other towns on La Gomera have had a facelift in recent years. 
Plans for the future
At a recent meeting in a local hotel plans for a major overhaul of the town centre were unveiled with the promise of a solid injection of funds, which were said to be available immediately so that work could begin very soon. Residents and business owners will be consulted and can make further proposals for amendments. On the plans it all looked very attractive, showing a pedestrianised road  with very nice level paving, street furniture, lighting, trees, shrubs and flowers. This is planned for phase one which will maintain car access for residents to the existing central car park, which will later be turned into a green town park when more car parking on the nearby vacant harbour plot will have been created. This huge area easily accommodated all the vehicles of the 5.000 evacuees during the fire last year
Restricted traffic of delivery vehicles and residents,etc., will continue to be allowed in the town's central road except for a short stretch of road now connecting the banana co-op's building and the harbour, which will become more like a plaza. In all the pedestrianised and traffic-calmed  areas bars and restaurants will be able to place seating outside of their premises  and this will add to the flair of the area. 
Further plans include the creation of another green area around where the bunker-like disused water tank now stands . The fishing harbour area, the fisherman's co-op building and the main access road from the roundabout will all get a revamp at another stage of the development which incorporates new buildings for ticket offices, etc and the fisherman's bar and public toilets.
Laudable initiative
Additionally there is a campaign by politicians to get the authorities to finish the extended outer harbour and to allocate funds for 2014 to tidy up the existing harbour facilities, so that it can accommodate smaller cruise ships and lose its disused and neglected image. The reality now is that the new harbour is silting-up because it lacks the final protective extension and it had to be dredged once already, having lost up to 10ft depth in places at the south-eastern side of the new pier.
All the new plans are very laudable and the final result will be worth the little bit of disruption and noise during the construction period which is said to take only about one year for completion of the first phase. Now is the time to invest to create jobs and plan for the future. Vueltas port is on the trade wind route to the Americas as navigated by Columbus and La Gomera's by-name is La Isla Columbina.
Plenty of sea room for all types
All what's missing now to give Vueltas the standing it deserves and to bring back the bustling life it had at the end of the last century are more positive news that ferries re-connect the harbour and that the badly needed but hotly discussed marina will soon become a reality. I know of several yacht owners who would gladly move their fine boats for longer periods to a safe marina in Valle Gran Rey. Having moored friends' yachts here, let me tell you that currently it isn't very comfortable, to put it mildly, and for all the trouble you have to pay almost the same harbour dues as for a luxury marina with all amenities not too far away. Present conditions might suit the 'hippie boats' but are not to the liking of serious sailors, as they prefer to have a shower and and a power connection before or after spending a long time at sea. For longer stays there simply isn't a safe berth when there's a swell running and even when the skipper has rented an apartment with harbour view he has to be almost constantly on watch even in mildly poor weather. A marina would remedy all that and it would provide a lot of new employment while giving existing business more income. I know many local fishermen who'd prefer the comforts of a safe pontoon berth, too, but for others it presents a threat to to their accustomed routine. There's enough sea room here for both types of sailors. 
The formerly envisaged protected artificial beach from the roundabout to the new pier is another vision that now has been almost forgotten, but it would certainly pay off if it was installed. The natural beach is often overcrowded and some don't like the smell of fish and diesel from the fishing boats, no matter how clear and clean the water is at times.
I meet first-time visitors to this town almost daily and they can see the potential for pulchritude, whereas sadly some long-time resident blow-ins pine for the romantic rural past and detest any change. The latter  tend to forget that their places of origin have since moved with the times, too, and that they themselves have contributed to many changes here.
For my part I definitely couldn't care less about the politics, but I just love bustling ports with the smell of fish and a whiff of the whole wide world which hangs about harbours.
I rest my case.
UPDATE with plans: Vueltas village: The plans
Vueltas port in Valle Gran Rey: The finishing of the outer harbour and a marina are long overdue as well


leolyons said...

I think it is the very fact that 'the places of origin' of 'long-time resident blow-ins' have since 'moved with the times' that causes them to be cautious when faced with plans to regenerate areas like Vueltas. Here in Britain we have seen so many towns and villages with a great deal of character, individuality and charm turned into sanitised Disney versions of their former selves with carbon copy rows of shops and restaurants all owned by the same small group of international companies.Snall local businesses are inevitably driven out because they do not fit the vision and cannot afford the rents and rates needed to pay for the nice new facilities.
I am not against change and of course there are areas of the town which would benefit from sensitive improvements but sadly the planners often fail to realise that the reason for the attraction of places like Vueltas include its quirkiness and lack of ubiquitous 'resort' type facilities. If the soul of Vueltas is destroyed in an effort to smooth away all the little idiosyncrasies of the place then it is a self defeating project. There are plenty of nice tourist and yacht owning concrete citadels with chi-chi marinas just across the water if that is what 'floats your boat'.
The reason that I and many others have visited La Gomera practically every year for a quarter of a century is because it is different. I don't want to brush aside the desire of local people to improve their surroundings but it does have to be faced that tourism - and in La Gomera's case a highly specialised tourism - is the main income for the area. Don't lets throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Willie said...

Vueltas now resembles a dump in its centre with many businesses closing or moving elsewhere. It badly needs to be given a new lease of life. The nice little lanes that were tidied up years ago won't be touched and will remain the same. New buildings are not envisaged in the centre, which will basically remain the same, only a bit cleaner, greener and more inviting. Its soul will be brought back to life and as far as your 'chi-chi marinas' go: None of that is envisaged here; just a small and safe haven for real sailors and local fishermen with an end to dragging anchors, damaged boats, and paying a lot for nothing but trouble. The concrete you're fearing has already set and hardened many years ago and will not be added to. The people of Vueltas are just sick of going backwards and will gladly settle for an end to decay.

leolyons said...

In that case I am fully on board with the plans and look forward to enjoying Vueltas' new lease of life. Do have to say I didn't think Vueltas a dump when I was last there a couple of weeks ago and I think the economic situation in Spain and worldwide might also have something to do with businesses closing. Still miss the chickens though .....