Crested Butte couple creates a treehouse community in Costa Rica
Erica and Mateo Hogan, a couple from Crested Butte, wanted to create a tropical paradise. "It was very muddy four or five months out of the year in Crested Butte, so we were thinking of buying some property somewhere warm to wait out the muddy season," Erica says. And after slogging through for five years -- including a hellish year of living in a muddy tent in the rainforest -- they just might have gotten there.
What Erica and Mateo created was Finca Bellavista. The Costa Rican treehouse community's name roughly translates to "village with a beautiful view," and the treehouses that comprise it surpasses anything in a suburban backyard. Ranging from 800 to 1400 square feet, these have full kitchens, bathrooms with running water, electricity and internet access. The local climate means no need for heat or air conditioning. And outside are hundreds of tropical birds and more than a few treehouses have waterfall views. These homes are accessible via ziplines, suspension bridges and bamboo ladders.
The 300-acre property was so magnificent, American Eagle Outfitters used it as the backdrop for its Summer 2011 campaign. AE's production agency gave them a call out of the blue and images of the wildlife, waterfalls and trees ended up on jumbo-trons in Times Square. "The day before they called, we were looking at the results of having one sale over a year and maybe having to lay-off some of our crew," Erica says. "They called the next day, and that changed everything. It kept us floating and completely changed the energy." They've hired four more employees, for a total of twelve, since then.
"The most moving part for me was being in Times Square and seeing HD videos, 20 feet tall, with images of waterfalls and ziplines and, of course, beautiful models. Every time the Finca stuff came on, it just shed this sea of green over all of Times Square," Mateo says. "There'd be fifteen to twenty thousand people there, and when the five-minute video would turn on, they'd all be just, 'Holy shit.'"
The idea for the "Ewok village," as Erica and Mateo often call it, came in 2006. Mateo went on a surfing trip to Southern Costa Rica, and it was love. Erica was a reporter at the Crested Butte News and Mateo was co-owner of a roofing contracting company. During his trip, Mateo heard about an international airport planned for the area -- it is still years in the making -- and convinced Erica it would be a great investment. He found an ad that read "Buy this farm with secondary growth forest, harvest the timber and recoup your investment. Sell for profit as a cattle ranch," he recalls. There was a photo and what it depicted wasn't a few timber trees. From the tiny picture, he could see waterfalls and luscious shades of green. It was larger than they had planned to buy, 62 acres, but they wanted to save the trees.
62 acres quickly turned into 300 acres when the Hogans realized that the surrounding farms were also being sold off for timber. The couple didn't have the money for all the land, so they asked friends and family to chip in by buying portions, the largest being just over four acres. Friends and family expanded to strangers, many from Crested Butte and Boulder, and soon they had the money to buy the land outright. "The mindset between Coloradans and what they can find in Costa Rica in terms of lifestyle and what they can enjoy on a day-to-day basis is very similar," Erica says, "it's very outdoor-oriented."