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From Idea to Reality: The Story of the Boquete Library and the Park

“A Biblioteca is for the mind, a Parque is for the soul.”

Elsa Castillo,

Director, Biblioteca de Boquete

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By Price Peterson

Around 1967, a small parcel of land in Boquete was given to the local Lions Club by the municipio to build a library.  That parcel is where the new Library is today.  The Lions initially built a good sized building, 80 percent for their Club, the remainder for the Library. 

However, by 2008 the building was beginning to deteriorate and several people got together to see if the land might be passed to a new library group.  Thanks largely to Anaynasi Menendez, the land was transferred and a new foundation formed in October 2009 called:  Biblioteca de Boquete.  

The Board of Directors at the time was Anayansi Menendez, Sammy Palma, Eugenio Lee, Melissa Vallarino, and Price Peterson.  The  building was bid out, contracted and built and is largely what you see today.  Up until this time, taking books home was not allowed but that quickly changed.  Browsing, taking books out and reading for pleasure programs began.  The Library swiftly amassed 24,000 volumes, mostly purchased.

The location and the building became a focal point for community events and groups within a fairly short time.  The third floor became an art gallery largely due to the efforts of Boquete resident, Sally Zigmond and her artistic friends.  The requests piled up for a multitude of meetings, musical and dramatic presentations.  It was very apparent that Boquete needed more than the space could provide.  Talks began of a Center for Performing Arts, a small theater, a convention center and of course, a great coffee shop.

With this in mind the Biblioteca (Library) Board of Directors began to search for a place which would accommodate all of these needs.  One hectare of land at the middle to northern end of what is now the Park was found but the price was much too high.  It was a year or two later that the owners returned with a more reasonable price which allowed for the purchase of the entire 8.75 hectares.  Thus, a Park was born.  The plans for a Performing Arts Center/Convention Center have been shelved for the time being and given time, improved parking and funding it is hoped those ideas will come to fruition. 

Boquete is a small town surrounded by beautiful Mountains and the Park takes the cultural and educational activities of the Library into the open spaces where people can experience them in a natural environment and year-round Spring-like weather.

Since opening in 2021, the Park (known officially as Parque Biblioteca Boquete) has thrived with more than 35 species of trees and a wide array of animals.  The menagerie includes domestic ducks, turtles, fish, squirrels, butterflies and birds of all kinds.  

The Park is in Bajo Boquete along the Caldera River.  In order to enhance the water experience in the park, a series of canals were built so the water flows from the Quebrada Grande across the park and into the fast-running Caldera.  The resulting  ponds created the ecosystem that today supports interdependent life.  With its natural and serene beauty it is enhanced by the magnificent view of  Volcan Baru, Panama’s highest point.

The idea of the Park, (Parque Biblioteca Boquete) is to provide a social, educational, ecological and tourist initiative where people can coexist in harmony with Boquete’s natural surroundings.  To that end, the Park has become a great success.  As with the Library, this three million dollar project was built with private funds and its survival and expansion  depends solely on donations both public and private.  No civic funds are to be used and thus no political interests will be involved.  

The Park is free and pet friendly, but dogs must be leashed and cleaned up after. There is no skateboarding, bicycling, or roller-blading. It is open Monday to Sunday from 6:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

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THE CHALLENGES:

The finishing of the basic infrastructure of the Park remains the biggest challenge including irrigation, parking, electrical distribution, a permanent nursery, commercial lawn mowers, night lighting and bathrooms for the lower section.  So there is plenty left to do and underscores the need for a group to support raising funds.  Out of this need came Amigos del Parque or Friends of the Park with the mission of seeing that the Park continues to evolve and thrive for the next 100 years.

Price Peterson


 
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