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Made in the shade


An Oklahoma City native creates an eco-village in the Costa Rica rain forest.

Nicole Hill May 9th, 2012

Morning routines vary. Some people spring from their beds as if they’re starring in a Folger’s commercial. Others get alarmingly familiar with the snooze button.

And still others wake up to see a sloth swinging from a vine outside the window.

Admittedly, this last group is small in number, but as Erica and Matt Hogan prove, its members are large in ambition.

The Hogans live in the Costa Rica rain forest, where it is entirely possible daytime activities will include manhandling, relocating and admonishing a snake attempting to make a meal out of a nearby nest of eggs. “Don’t eat the neighbors” is one of the few rules at Finca Bellavista, the sustainable tree-house community the Hogans have created.

Erica, an Oklahoma City native, bills the community as an “Ewok village,”and it’s an apt description. With its rustic treetop homes, Finca Bellavista — loosely translated as a “property with beautiful view” — fits its name.

The husband-and-wife team embarked on the quest in 2006 to create the community on 300 acres of what was once advertised as a clear-cut site. They didn’t know what to expect when they began subdividing the property into parcels, just as they didn’t anticipate selling out of lots after only seven months of availability.

“Everybody’s always wanted a tree house, whether they’re 8 or 80,” Matt said.

Six years later, life in the canopy is still an adventure for the Hogans, who reside there year-round with 13 full-time workers and a rotating volunteer crew, four species of monkeys, innumerable lizards, at least 230 types of birds and an ever-growing catalog of unidentified plants.

“We’ve got biodiversity coming out the wazoo,” Matt said. “Every day, we see something cool.”

That neighborhood in the canopy includes zip lines and trails, gravity-fed water, cell and wireless internet access, and solar-powered electricity. Hydropower is in the works.

Each home is constructed only after “due diligence,” which includes consulting with a botanist and scouting for potential problems, Matt said.

“People romanticize what we’re doing and then whenever they get on site, they’re like, ‘Holy cow, that’s what you’ve been doing for five years,’” Erica said.

But there are some things you can’t get in a rain forest. On a recent return visit to Oklahoma, Eric said she was eager to eat at Eischen’s.

Home is about more than fried chicken, however. The inspiration for Finca stems from the couple’s upbringing, Erica said, and that includes Oklahoma’s sense of community.

“I’m proud to be an Okie,” she said. “I think it’s a fantastic place to be from, and I think the Finca concept has a home here someday in Oklahoma.”

 
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