The Development Plan presents a strategy for the sustainable use of natural and cultural resources found in the area of Sherman- San Lorenzo, a fifteen thousand hectare former military base which was reverted to the nation on June 30, 1999. It is an indirect product of previous planning studies which culminated with the passage of Law 21 of July 2, 1997, by which the Regional Plan for the Development of the Interoceanic Region and the General Plan for the Use, Conservation and Development of the Canal Area were passed.
These regulatory plans, in recognition of the exceptional value of the cultural and natural resources found in the area, recommended the development of a grand eco-tourism and recreational center at Sherman, designating the majority of the land for the establishment of a protected natural area. This plan, emanating from its antecedents and in accordance with a general realignment within the tourism sector, applies, for the first time in Panama, concepts and strategies associated with patrimonial tourism to an object of regional planning.
Situated contiguous to one of the world’s most important transit systems, the area contains an impressive array of historic artefacts related to the defense of the intercontinental route, including the colonial fortifications of San Lorenzo, at the mouth of the Rio Chagres (declared World Monument by UNESCO in 1980) and the coastal batteries built concurrently with the Panama Canal at the beginning of the 20th century. These fascinating military works exist today within a grand natural space which has one of the highest levels of biodiversity in the Canal area, and is a critical link in the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor.
The proposal calls for the integration of the city of Colon and the coastal area to the west, known as “Costa Abajo”, into the development of the Sherman- San Lorenzo area. In the Costa Abajo the proposal calls for the promotion of projects directed towards capacitation of the population in natural resources administration, sustainable agriculture and tourism services. The projects proposed for Colon are framed within a proposal for the integral reconstruction of the urban center, including important investments in the environmental infrastructure, health, education, housing and transportation sectors.
A revitalized urban center in Colon will comprise one pole of a new regional interoceanic axis of patrimonial tourism and will connect via the trans- isthmian route with another patrimonial development node in Amador, which, like Sherman- San Lorenzo, will be part of an urban and environmental reconstruction process, while at the same time establishing connections to other patrimonial sites in the region and country. Since the delivery of the planning study this patrimonial node in Amador has been formalized in a new Museum of Biodiversity, designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry.