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Sunday, March 9, 2008

Tough Turf

By Hal Paco Clark

The desert of northwest Mexico around the upper Sea of Cortez is a unique and hostile environment. In it’s natural state this beautiful meeting of land and sea is relatively inhospitable to man and his attempts to change this landscape. While the ports of San Felipe and Puerto Penasco were primarily known for their commercial fishing, they have spawned a rapidly growing tourist industry. Some of the more challenging of the new developments are golf courses.

It may be surprising to many that this harsh desert setting is extremely sensitive to man’s presence and more so that Mexico has taken a strong position in establishing high environmental standards to preserve and protect the land and sea. A natural concern in the desert is water conservation and the use of pesticides that may be potentially harmful to the eco-structure. In meeting these challenges golf course designers and developers have focused on a new variety of grass. This grass is called Seashore paspalum and is widely used in the newer golf courses in Mexico.

A newly released hybrid of Seashore paspalum is called SeaDwarf® paspalum. As a golf course turf the developers of SeaDwarf® claim it’s characteristics are unsurpassed. The blue-green color provides excellent striping with varied mowing patterns, its density allows quick recovery from divots and traffic and perhaps most importantly the new grass is drought and salt tolerant. It’s high level of saline tolerance means the golf course can use non-potable saline water and preserve the local fresh water resources. The high salinity of the water used for irrigation also minimizes the need to use potentially harmful pesticides. Those of you familiar with golf courses in other desert areas of the US southwest know that they require winter over seeding, another major benefit is it’s cold weather tolerance and color retention eliminate the need for winter over seeding. This not only saves the golf course operation time and money but also saves the golfer the inconvenience and disruption of play that results from annual winter over seeding.

Two courses using this grass include Las Caras de Mexico in San Felipe, Baja California and The Links @ Las Palomas in Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico. Both of these courses face extremes of high salinity, water shortages, high desert temperatures, high humidity and strong winds.

The developers of Las Caras de Mexico participated in the research and development of SeaDwarf®, and make this comment regarding their selection:

“Being in a desert Biosphere Reserve zone here at San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico; we had no choice but to use a paspalum grass. We chose to use SeaDwarf® wall-to-wall on our new Las Caras de Mexico (the Faces of Mexico) golf course, because of its’ unique and environmentally friendly characteristics. We are very happy with our accomplishment (the first golf course in San Felipe) and also very proud to be a part of the new environmentally aware Mexico.”

This thoughtful interaction with our planet will allow all of us to live in joy and harmony.

Chef Martin Colman

Interesting people of Baja - meet - Chef Martin Colman
by Robin Waters

Before the age of 30 Martin Colman became President of the Century City Shopping Center and Merchants Association. Century City was at that time, the only shopping center in the West side of Los Angeles. During Colmans tenure Century City went from a middle class mall to the cutting edge, luxury center it is today.

Chef Colman refined the related functions of retail service to create a new standard for dining and the hospitality customer to have a seamless experience of excellence. Now a Chef renown for his cutting edge culinary innovation, who has catered to a long list of world leaders and business celebrities. To drop a few names: actors Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, Michel Douglas, and Julie Andrews. News caster Walter Cronkite. Alan Greespan, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Queen Noor of Jordan. Vaclav Havel, former President of the Czech Republic to is only a partial list.

Philanthropist who campaigned for Freedom and was instrumental in the fall of the Berlin Wall. Throughout his business life, Colman devoted substantial time and resources to the cause of freedom in countries occupied by communism. Then in 1985 the leaders of the democracy movements in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and the other communist countries asked Colman to put together an organization to help overthrow communism. Colman sold his business and devoted full time to the now famous cause known as Resistance International (AFRI). It may seem quite a contrast between creating the finest artful cuisine and leading freedom movements against repressive governments, but both of Colman’s’ life endeavors reflect his passions. One is to create and savor the finest things in life and the second it to be free to do it. “I see no contradiction…different though they are”, Colman said in an interview with the French newspaper, Le Quotidien.

Businessman who in the 1990’s returned to the retail business and owned or operated: Cabo Restaurant, The Wine Room, the Baja Grille, and The Jockey Club in Washington D. C., which received raves of the “Best Bar in Washington” from the Delta Flyer Magazine, and “Culinary Genius” from the Golf Magazine. An aficionado of the Escoffier method, he is also responsible for Everything To Its Own Perfection™ in culinary production, and designed numerous kitchens using these most advanced methods. He developed the “Bin System” for wines which integrated varietals, regional and blended wines in a seamless system for storage, care, paring and service. His system offers a broad selection in every major category and begins with very reasonably priced wines: surprisingly none of which is less than 85 points.

Chef Colman leaves in May for France, to receive a coveted award for being one of the “Top 100 Chefs in the World”. When he returns it will be to Las Vegas to his new restaurant and another wonderful adventure.

Of the many interesting people that come to the Baja. Chef Martin Colman is definitely one.

Puerto Peñasco —Infrastructure

Puerto Peñasco —Infrastructure
by Charlie Luse

Infrastructure consists of basic installations and facilities on which a community's continued growth depends, such as roads, schools, transportation, communication commerce and business services. Here are some businesses that are either in Puerto Peñasco or are coming soon, to offer services that make the city a desirable place for permanent residents and vacationers.

Puerto Peñasco has several ongoing and/or planned initiatives. An extensive project paving city streets is underway. Large water lines are being installed to provide the additional water the city needs. A desalination plant is planned to provide drinking water from the Sea of Cortez. The park at the town's entry is being refurbished, and workers are cleaning some of the major streets and roads.

The airport, which is 6km (3.72 miles) north of the city on Highway 8, serves Los Angeles on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays under the name AeroMexico Connect. Flight time is approximately 1 ½ hours with a round trip fare of $318, with schedule and fares subject to change. Aeroservicios Guerrero also flies to the capital city of Sonora, Hermosillo every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

The popular Alamo car rental is now operating at the airport. The new International Airport across from the Mayan Palace resort now has a completed runway, with the remaining services to be completed in 15 months. The new airport will accommodate major airlines.

The fishermen’s dock, where many shrimp boats operate, is frequently visited by tourists, so the city recently removed almost 2 ½ tons of waste and debris to make the area more attractive.

The new Coastal Highway will connect Puerto Peñasco through El Golfo to Southern California. When complete, the drive from Southern California or San Felipe to Puerto Peñasco will be approximately 4 ½-5 hours. A new highway is planned to connect the Peñasco-Sonoyta and Peñasco-Caborca highways, and will provide access to the new International Airport.

We now see familiar businesses opening, such as Meineke Car Care Center, with all new state-of-the-art equipment, and several Circle Ks and large Mexican brands such as the new modern supermarket, Super Val, with a new pharmacy adjacent to the store that is open 24/7, with a Domino's Pizza and a Chinese restaurant opening next door.
A new medical clinic operated by an English speaking doctors has modern equipment such X-rays, a laboratory, ultrasound and the city's only CT scanner. In addition to routine care, the clinic offers annual coverage for both families and businesses.

A multi-use spa is under construction and will open this summer. It includes medical facilities and traditional spa services such as massages, sauna, etc. One wing is dedicated to plastic surgery with facilities including apartments for clients to stay in during recovery. Plans also include a dermatologist, dentist and other medical disciplines.

Another development is planning a plaza with shopping, markets and a movie theater!

CIMA, a private school that opened last year, is adding a middle school to its curriculum. This modern facility offers two hours of English each day for elementary aged children, and one hour for preschool children.

During the past year a modern Burger King opened with children's birthday party facilities, including the apparatus for piñatas.

A Cuban restaurant recently opened and on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, it has a live musical show with local dancers performing typical rhythms of Cuba such a Salsa, Cha Cha Cha, Tango, etc.

An important initiative for Puerto Peñasco was cleaning the beaches, a project undertaken privately by residents in the Sandy Beach area.

A new cigar store recently opened, “La Casa del Habano,” selling authentic Cuban cigars, including the famous Cohiba. It is closely patterned after many US cigar shops and has a refreshment bar, and lounge furniture with a TV so customers can buy cigars, then smoke and relax in comfort in the store.

We are now seeing many things that will make Puerto Peñasco appealing to live in and visit.

San Felipe Management Services

by John Pack

San Felipe Management Services is the result of sixty-five years in managing people and projects and two lives uniting in a shared goal to help San Felipe.

Kristy came to San Felipe in 1998, having seen an advertisement for Mexican resort property selling for only $39.99. She fell in love with San Felipe, and in 2005 became a full-time resident.

Stan was a National Pen Company prize winner and paid his annual dues for ten years. In 1999 he attended a sales presentation, “upgraded” his lot, and decided to go see what he had bought. He came to San Felipe and, like Kristy, he fell in love. In January 2002, he too became a full-time resident.

Prior to moving to Mexico, Kristy had had an executive coaching business in the US and once moved had taught English to the children at DIF and employees at El Dorado Ranch.

Stan spent forty years in the aerospace business in Southern California and held numerous management positions, which included over thirty years of project management experience.

They decided that in San Filipe there was a need for a professional construction management company to be the eyes, ears, and voice for absentee owners during construction. In May of 2005 they launched the San Felipe Management Service. The SFMS team consists of the owner, the architect, the contractor, the legal team, the interior designer, the finishing contractor, and the building inspector.

“People hire us for peace of mind,” says Kristy. Many fall in love with the area, and buy a piece of Baja - Then What? This is where San Felipe Management Services comes in.

They have detailed processes and procedures that bring the team together in two phases: Phase I converts the owners’ dreams into drawings that meet their cost and schedule goals and comply with all developer and government regulations. In Phase II, team members oversee the construction, provide detailed reports and pictures of the progress (via a website), resolve issues and concerns among team members, control payments to the contractor, and ensure that the project is completed on time and within budget. We monitor the payment of social security and withhold final payment to the contractor until the Letter of Liberation is in hand—a worry free experience.

San Felipe Management Service is increasingly involved in managing custom homes, homes for developments, managing commercial projects, and inspecting homes for lending agencies. Next month, four homes will be completed and work on several new houses will begin.

Kristy and Stan call San Felipe home and with it being designated a “Destination Point” by the Mexican government, they expect the building market to explode in the next few years. “San Felipe is Palm Springs with an ocean. How can you beat that?” Kristy says with her warm smile.

Our Unplanned Stop under the Mexican Circus Big Top

by Laura Comstock

Last Sunday, late in the morning, my husband, Dave, and I were driving into San Felipe from the north. Soon after passing Los Arcos, there it was, down a dusty side street on the left - A circus tent! Unable to resist, we made a quick turn and soon found ourselves parked in front of the big top. The large sign on the trailer in front said Circo Rex Y Su Anaconda de Venezuela, but no people seemed to be up and about yet. Luckily, a handsome young couple came strolling down the street just then. The husband was a clown with the circus. He graciously showed us into the big top, explained the various prices for seats, and knocked on another trailer to let us purchase tickets right away, so we wouldn't have to stand in line that evening. We decided to splurge on ringside seats for 60 pesos each.

The show started with a beautiful young woman on the trapeze. Next, a handsome young man in a leopard skin loincloth was introduced as Tarzan. He also did some beautiful aerial tricks using cloth streamers instead of the trapeze, including taking a señorita from the audience for a spin through the air. Neither of the two aerialists, which looked like brother and sister, had a net beneath them. Tarzan also brought out various trained animals to do tricks, including a baboon, bear, camel, buffalo, long horn steer, pony, and a tiger; alas, no lion, despite the articles title.

Sitting ringside gave us a close-up of the animals, including the tiger, as close as six feet away from us - unrestrained! Of course, between the other acts, there were clowns. Their antics, including the classic bucket of water/confetti, had all the children screaming with laughter.
At the intermission, there were pony rides around the ring for the ninos for 5 pesos, snacks, and toys for sale. The second half of the show had more trained animals and a balancing act with a man performing handstands that ascended higher and higher, and, of course, more clowns. The most unusual act was a brave man that crouched underwater in a barrel coated with fuel and set afire while holding his breath. It must have been several tense minutes until the fire burned off and he emerged, but it felt much longer.

Finally, the grand finale, when the giant albino anaconda was brought out carried by six men. The children were invited to the edge of the ring to see and touch the huge snake as it was carried around.

Ringling Bros., Barnum and Bailey, to Cirque de Soliel, they’re all incredible, awe-inspiring shows. However, if you want an intimate, interactive experience with no nets or barriers, join the families of San Felipe at the next small traveling circus that swings through town. We got as much enjoyment at seeing the local kids having so much fun as we did seeing the show, and so will you.

Mexico Becomes First Choice for Many Second-Home Buyers

By: Maria Lopez

Home to many popular tourist destinations, such as Cancun, Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta and Baja California, Mexico is also fast becoming a popular destination for those looking to purchase a second home for vacation, retirement or investment.

As more and more families seek to balance their hectic, high-stress lifestyles, having a second home is gaining appeal as a way to get away from it all, reduce stress, participate in recreational activities and enjoy more quality time together, and all while making a good investment for the future.

Located north of Central America, Mexico is an exotic and affordable choice for second homes. At nearly three times the size of Texas, Mexico boasts over 5,500 miles of coastland. The country is graced with a temperate climate year round.

Because real estate in domestic locales such as Arizona and Florida has become so expensive, vacationers and retirees are seeking out more affordable locations. Mexico is an attractive alternative due to its tropical climate, lower cost of living and welcoming attitude towards foreigners.

Its affordable real estate allows U.S. investors to purchase a luxurious second home at prices 20% to 50% less than they would pay for a comparable property back home. And, as demand for these properties increases, owners can expect their investment in Mexico real estate to appreciate.

A variety of quality properties is available for foreign investors seeking second homes in Mexico. Developers are meeting the surge in demand by constructing resort-like, master-planned communities brimming with luxurious amenities such as golf courses, infinity pools, full-service spas, state-of-the-art fitness centers, fine-dining restaurants and exciting entertainment venues. International buyers appreciate that Mexico offers an attractive infrastructure similar to that of the U.S. It boasts good main roads, Internet access, cable television, good cell phone reception, and availability of many American-style products and services. New and improved airports and frequent flights to and from major U.S. cities, make Mexico easily accessible.

Though Mexican law once prevented non-citizens from purchasing property within 31 miles of the coast, the government has introduced a system known as “fideicomiso” (fee-day-e-co-me-so), a title-holding trust that allows non-citizens to own property inside of the restricted zones. Therefore, many of the new vacation homes being developed and marketed to foreign investors are built near Mexico’s beautiful beaches.

Financing for properties in Mexico has become easier to obtain as developers work in tandem with lending companies in Mexico to offer favorable loan packages to international buyers. In addition, U.S. lenders are starting to offer loans for properties in Mexico.

Mexico is clearly worthy of consideration for those looking to own a second home that will provide years of enjoyment and also offer the potential for appreciation and profit in the future.


Maria Lopez is a sales agent with Central America Second Homes, a real estate brokerage that specializes in the sale of vacation, investment and retirement property in Central America. The firm offers luxury condos and homes at pre-construction prices in Costa Rica, Panama and Mexico. Go to http://www.CentralAmericaSecondHomes.com to view property listings and also to request a FREE copy of the Central America Second Homes Report, an insider’s guide to buying abroad.