Monday, August 18, 2008

La Capilla - A New Era

La Capilla awaits a new beginning

East Capes Newest Development closes one era and opens another.

The history of the modern sport fishing era at East Cape really began in the early 50’s. In those days, southern Baja had few people, no highway, no international airport, (pilots landed on beaches and dirt fields), and certainly no marinas. But it did have fish.

In 1952, Herb Tansey, owner and developer of Rancho Buena Vista Hotel, held his grand opening, but business was slow. Early in1957, Herb was about to throw in the towel when Ray Cannon, an American writer and Baja Editor of Western Outdoor News (first published on Dec. 3, 1953), arrived by taxi on the long dirt road from La Paz, along with another writer, Frank Dufresne of Field & Stream. The two writers were on their first trip around the southern tip of Baja, and Ray fell in love with Rancho Buena Vista Hotel. Ray’s fascinating Baja columns’ caught the public interest, business boomed and soon Rancho Buena Vista became the most popular fishing resort there.

In March 1959, after Tansey’s tragic death in a plane crash, retired Army Colonel Gene Walters purchased the small hotel.

When his son, Chuck Walters, joined the Colonel at Rancho Buena Vista Hotel, he had the opportunity to purchase 100 acres of property known as La Capilla, the chapel. He built his home on one of the beachfront lots and lived there until he passed away in the early eighties.

He also built a funky, little-known trailer park with a few houses scattered about. It was sort of an off the beaten track place where most of the spaces and houses had been rented on an annual basis for years. A well kept secret that was mostly known by the locals and tenants.

The Colonel and Chuck shared a vision of what the future could be, and La Capilla and Rancho Buena Vista began a new era.

Mark Walters, grandson, son, and third generation Baja entrepreneur, first traveled to Baja with his parents when he was eight years old. He caught the ‘Baja Bug’ early and visited often. In1979, when his father, Chuck Walters was stricken with cancer, Mark returned to Rancho Buena Vista to live and assist with the management of the hotel.

For nearly three decades Mark had plenty of time to visualize the possibilities and potential that the often ignored La Capilla possessed. Slowly his vision began to take shape…a small gated community perched on the shore of the Sea of Cortez offering many features and amenities that could be enjoyed by a select few who chose to make La Capilla their home.

In November, 2005, the property was sold, and Mark’s vision began to take shape with the help of Davidson and Jones, a seasoned developer from North Carolina…bringing to life what will become one of the most appealing and coveted beachfront communities in southern Baja.

Heavy equipment was brought in to clean away the houses, trailer sites and debris, carefully preserving more than 5,000 trees, cactus and other plants to be used for the final landscaping.

One of those houses, my own family and I had considered ‘home’ for over 17 years.

Recently, I stood high on a bluff with Mark Walters overlooking the hunk of land that encompasses roughly one hundred acres, with one kilometer of extraordinary beachfront on the quiet Sea of Cortez. We were both filled with memories of our own families enjoying that beachfront.

“It was a sad day when the bulldozers knocked down my father’s house,” Mark began. “There were so many good memories there.”

He added, “As I watched the debris being loaded into trucks and hauled away, it seemed like another chapter of La Capilla was closing. I could hear my father’s voice over the rumbling of the heavy machinery. ‘La Capilla, with its natural Baja beauty, must never be broken up and sold off in small pieces. This Baja Oasis is part of our families’ heritage that must be shared with others.’

“La Capilla will soon be a gated community that will include many more amenities than my father ever dreamed of,” he continued.

“There will be membership in a 14,000 sq. ft. private Beach Club facility which will offer a fitness center, spa, restaurant, bar and infinity pool. Over 50 acres will be designated open space…including paseos (park like corridors) leading down to the beach. The plans call for 224 homes and 100 villas when the entire project is completed, with the first phase completed in the fall of 2009.”

Mark envisions even more changes to the nearby Rancho Buena Vista Hotel. A Nick Price Signature 18-hole golf course is in the planning stage; a luxury boutique hotel and a mixture of home sites and villas are being considered in the future.

Mark Walters feels with the new partners’ help he can deliver the three generation old family vision. Once again, La Capilla and Rancho Buena Vista will lead the East Cape into a new era.

Mark Walters and the Project Manager, Alfonso Pulido hope to deliver the three generation old family vision soon