Bahía Blanca, the coastal city that seeks to resolve its divorce with the sea

Audionota: Guillermo Crisafulli

Adrián Luciani
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There is hardly another city in the country like Bahía Blanca, so close and at the same time, so far from the sea.

Barely 50 blocks separate, in a straight line, the Rivadavia square from the coast. However, for many people from Bahia, those five kilometers represent an eternal journey into the unknown.

One might think that these two worlds always lived apart, but in reality they were born together and achieved some moments of good coexistence, but far below what could be expected for a maritime city.

Its beginnings were common and simultaneous because when Estomba established the fort, many of the materials used for its construction had previously reached the area of ​​the brand new Puerto de la Esperanza or Puerto Viejo, in the sector where the Napostá stream empties.

Although traveling the 8.5 kilometers in a straight line that separated the Argentine Protective Fortress from the wharf at that time meant an eternity, the population closely needed the logistical support that came from the sea, with the periodic appearance of boats.

The coast, as inhospitable as it is inhospitable, with the passage of time ended up being summarized to the ports of Ingeniero White, Galván and Cuatreros, but it was those docks that kept the coexistence with the estuary alive from the 20th century on.

With the export of grains as a flag, plus other tasks such as fishing or rail transport, also demanding a lot of labor, the local ports sustained the growth of the city and the coast began to be used as a place of recreation when the heat it raged.

Bahía Blanca knew how to have at least a dozen recreational sites by the sea. Some were projected and developed such as the Colón private spa (where the avenue of that name ends at the sea) or the Maldonado municipal, but there were also other improvised ones such as the La Usina or La Alcantarilla spa.

A special case is that of the last beach in Bahia, that is, the coastal sector between Galván and Ingeniero White, which during the summer months was able to gather crowds.

“La playita”, as the Galván spa was also known, was born and died due to a dredging work, since it emerged towards the end of the 20s, in an area dominated by crabs, thanks to the accumulation of sand and shell extracted during at least two deepening campaigns carried out in the main channel.

As of 1929 the population began to make use of the improvised beach and with the passage of time, as a consequence of its success, successive municipal governments began to provide it with some services and amenities.

The little state investment and the lack of services did not prevent up to 10,000 bathers from congregating there on some peak days, many of them arriving on the famous “Tren de la Marea”.

The end of the spa was decided 700 kilometers away from Bahía Blanca, when it was decided that the sediments obtained during a new dredging campaign, in February 1976, would be dumped in that sector.

The coup de grace occurred in 1989 when the 45-foot dredging was completed, a work that gave rise to Puerto Cangrejales and later to the settlement of formidable industrial investments.

Although the divorce that exists between the city and its nearest sea is usually attributed to this fact, reviewing documents from half a century ago it can be seen that this local flaw existed previously and was already a cause for concern.

For example, 50 years ago, the Development Plan carried out by the municipal government alluded to the issue as a serious problem.

“Bahía Blanca is a maritime city that, however, does not” feel “or” see “the sea,” said the work, and then consigned a series of recommendations on the orderly use of the coast.

A glimpse of remedying the lack of coastal public spaces occurred during the municipal administration of Víctor Puente with the Frente Marítimo and its Almirante Brown park.

Over the years, the lack of attractive coastal areas, (just the Maldonado spa and some private clubs), plus the advancement of means of transport, made the people of Bahia increasingly look at the beaches of the region (Monte Hermoso and Pehuen Co) when looking for the sea.

Another important element occurred after the attack on the Twin Towers in New York, in 2001, when it was ordered, as a result of impositions of international trade, to forbid public access to numerous port sectors.

But not all were setbacks. In an effort to recover what was lost, the first stage of the Coastal Front – Paseo del Humedal should be mentioned, carried out with provincial funds, at the request of the municipal administration of Cristian Breitenstein, in 2011.

Then would come the Paseo Portuario and the Balcón al Mar in the port of Ingeniero White, a very good idea that today continues to bear fruit, and closer in time the recovery of Guido Boulevard, among other works.

Now a range of new alternatives is also opening, launched by the Port Management Consortium and which await a prompt completion to bring the people of Bahia closer to the sea.

In this sense, the imminent start of the works on the fisherman’s shoulder, or Puerto Piojo, in Ingeniero White, where the Port Walk will continue and an emblematic sector for the residents will be recovered.

Another very important work that the Management Consortium will face is the recovery of the centenary pier of the Elevadores de Chapa, where a confectionery and viewpoints will be built, in close connection with El Castillo of the former San Martín plant.

For this, an ideas competition was held at the national level and the winning project will be put out to tender next December.

Also the port administration headed by Federico Susbielles will begin the construction of a bird watching center and interpretation room in the Cuatreros dock sector, together with the expansion and improvement of the Guillermo “Indio” Fidalgo Marine Fauna Rescue Station, located in Galván.

There will be built an interpretation center and a confectionery with a viewpoint to enjoy some views of that port, now closed to the public.

And although it constitutes a difficult objective, but not for that reason impossible, the Municipality and the Management Consortium could face a new stage of the Coastal Front, a sector that today receives many visitors and fishing enthusiasts.

The idea is to point to a work of this type, continuing the joint work started with Dasso Avenue, in Ingeniero White, and in fact a team of architects worked for the Port on a coastal walk in that place.

In short, new attempts that seek to reverse a stigma that continues to hurt and that deprives the city of discovering and enjoying the formidable beauty of its estuary.

City and Port facing the great challenge of regional development

By Luis Caporossi

In 1970, Conade promoted plans for the reformulation of city-port links in the context of the logistical and productive changes that began in the 1960s.

In Rosario, the transfer of the port areas was proposed to free the urban front to the river and in Bahía Blanca the restructuring of the railway lines to free the city from cargo transits and the port from ineffective interferences.

Today 50 years later, Rosario has long since recovered its waterfront while here we have frozen in a continuous present the great logistical spaces available. Region City and Port were, in the 19th century, interrelated by huge connective infrastructures suitable to serve the third great photosynthetic grassland in the eighth country in order of size.

Now, in the 21st century, the traces of that support continue to be the key to development. This is not possible without socially shared convoking images of the future that connect with long-term goals.

Its absence only squanders efforts in erratic and scattered initiatives. Nor is it possible without the solutions to the urgencies and demands of the present constituting steps that progressively connect with the final goals.

The invaluable resource we have is that the network, which from the beginning has been the entire port-city region, not only exists, but is also systemic. In the first place, it is a public and continuous corridor that threads all the urban and rural port stopovers.

The railroad is just one more component of the multimodal connective flow that passes through it.

Connect with a green walkway Port and City, generate inter-neighborhood tours with public sports, cultural and recreational facilities on a regional scale, offer the real estate market developments on plots facing logistical gaps, facilitate multimodal connectivity between port, city and region all These ventures are a single problem and not a scattered set of demands.

They are the railway voids that surround the city and connect directly with the port the large scale space where the challenge of the necessary and urgent development of the SW of the province is played.

A paradise for those who love nature in its purest and most natural state

By Oscar Liberman
Navigator, Commodore Bahía Blanca Nautical Club

Latitude 39º 11´s south, Magellan registered in his blog, in 1520 establishing with remarkable precision the access to the bay that would later become the White Bay. Later it washed ashore in the lowlands of the Zuraita Islands and returned to the open sea through False Bay.

From that episode, over the course of two centuries, different expeditions sailed the area. Over time, the need to establish a town and a port motivated missions by land and sea.

Possibly due to the enormous costs of maritime missions to mobilize few people, and also due to the distance to the area identified as a natural port (Puerto Rosales today), Bahía Blanca ended up being founded as a fort a considerable distance from the sea.

This fact was decisive for the future of the relationship between inhabitants and territory. Just as the dynamics of the city center is still influenced by its origin as a fortress, the population dynamics developed “with our backs to the sea”.

It is true that the type of waterlogged terrain of the crabs does not make access as easy as in areas of sandy beaches.

In any case, there are always alternatives to get to the sea. Port industrial development gradually displaced most of the possible accesses.

Fortunately, in recent times there is a political determination to reverse this situation.

What can we find in the islands and channels of our estuary? The collision of the seascape with the Pampean mountain and the wetland coasts resolving the encounter. Unpasteurized nature in the purest state, just as it was in its origins. Islets and islands populated by geese, herons, seagulls, oystercatchers, flamingos, cormorants, jotes, chimpanzees connected by channels where it is common to see dolphins, Franciscans, and sea lions swimming in small streams of salt water.

Today, tourist boats allow you to get to know the estuary, and those who want to navigate it on a daily basis can do so from the clubs.

For those of us who love nature in its purest and most natural state, our “estuary” becomes a daily paradise.

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