PUNTA DONCELLA LIGHTHOUSE
by Chris Chaplow
A lighthouse has stood on the natural limestone headland known as Punta Doncella at the west end of La Rada beach in Estepona since an 8,5 metre structure was completed by engineer Antonio Molina in 1863.
The original olive oil burning lamp was purchased from Sautter the French maker. It was replaced in 1882 by a paraffin 'Maris' lamp and then by a petrol one in 1904. In 1918 the light beam was converted to the current 1+2 formation.
The current 20m tall octagonal stone structure was built in 1922. A rotating glass mechanism floating on mercury was constructed by the French maker Barbier, Bernard & Turenne. The lamp itself was fuelled by petroleum vapour and made by a manufacturer called Chance. A 500W electric lamp was installed in 1932.
In 1958 the lamp was changed to an American Racional make and supported by a Freeport diesel generator which still stands in reserve today. The lighthouse now has two 1000W halogen lamps on a La Maquinista Valenciana mount. The rotation of the lenses is powered by two three phase ABB motors.
The lighthouse is owned and managed by Malaga Port Authority is not open to the public. It is automatic although Antonio the lighthouse keeper who lives in the adjacent house maintains the infrastructure. He is one of only two lighthouse keepers remaining on the Malaga coast.
PUNTO DONCELA LIGHTHOUSE GARDENS
The lighthouse stands within 8.000 m2 of grounds owned by the port authority. These grounds include lighthouse keeper's house, sizable gardens and until 2013 private driveway back to the main road.
In November 2010 Estepona Town Hall signed an agreement with the Malaga Port Authority to cede 5.500m2 of land around the lighthouse, and with the help of a subsidy from Plan Qualifica (Plan de Recualificación Turística de la Costa del Sol Occidental 2007) would create a public park and by removing the walled off private access road, create a new public pathway from the road down to the Marina. Elections May 2011 resulted in a change of administration. The town hall never carried out the work and the Plan Qualifica agreement expired.
|Esteopona Lighthouse at sunset!|
In April 2012 Estepona Town Hall, under new administration, proudly announced that the project which had been their priority was now to go ahead since new agreements (convenios) had been re-signed with the Plan Qualifica agency.
In October more details were announced including a public board-walk with gardens offering splendid views over the La Rada beach and Mediterranean. This meant that 5.500 m2 of land that had been closed for more than one hundred years would be returned to public use.
The project had a budget of 825.949 euro and Plan Qualifica which would subsidise two thirds of the works the works to a value of 550,623€. The construction contract was awarded to a joint venture of two local construction companies Construcciones Bonifacio Solís and Movimientos Grupo OV. Regretfully part of the conserve factory with interesting gloss tile roof was demolished to make way for the path.
The park opened on 22 March 2013 and was most impressive. The circular path included four lookout points, information panels, bench seating areas and all within the landscaped gardens where a wide variety of plants and shrubs flourished. Each one has a small plaque giving botanical information.
At the unveiling ceremony politicians came from all five levels of government.
José María García Urbano, Mayor of Estepona proudly stated that the recovery of the lighthouse grounds had been a priority, "it was a symbol of the municipality that was forgotten and that went unnoticed".
Rafael Rodríguez, Minister for Tourism from the Andalucian regional government announced that "It is a project of reference and example at a national level of how to improve the competitiveness of a destination through coordination between administrations".
Jorge Hernández Mollar, sub-delegate of the national government in Malaga stated that the central government "is always committed to tourism, an industry that is a key part of our economy".
Francisca Caracuel, Senior Vice-President of the Diputación de Málaga stated that the space will become a hallmark of Estepona and the Costa del Sol and indicated that the lighthouse "returns to take centre stage in Estepona".
Margarita del Cid, President of the community of Municipalities of the Western Costa del Sol was also on hand.
The lighthouse gardens were enjoyed by tourist and residents alike for a few years, but over this time the works began to deteriorate, boards came loose, lights were vandalized, and the gardens clearly would have benefited from some serious weeding.
It is a common problem in Andalucía that works are undertaken taking advantage of higher government or European subsidy however since the funds for maintenance are not subsidized, they are omitted from budgets and works decay.
The Malaga Port Authority complained about the lack of maintenance to the Estepona Town Council who were responsible for this under the agreement.
Another problem surfaced when the state government lawyer reported that the original agreement between Estepona Council and the Malaga port authority was not legal and therefore invalid. Estepona appealed in court but lost. Since then it has not carried out any maintenance and the land legally reverted to the Port Authority who also refused to maintain it.
As the parks condition deteriorated, the Malaga Port Authority fenced it off in the summer of 2017.
The perimeter fence is often knocked down. Passing Tourists can take the opportunity to enter the park by day, walk the circular boardwalk and contemplate whether the land will be closed for another hundred years.