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Seeing the light at last

Seeing the light at last

After busy careers below ground as mining engineers at sites throughout North and Central America, John Paterson, Sc’78, MSc’83, and his wife Maureen (O’Shaughnessy), Sc’81, have achieved their dream of building an eco-lodge in the mountains of Costa Rica.

Rio Magnolia is a rainforest eco-tourism lodge and coffee plantation situated high above the southern Pacific surf town of Dominical, between Manuel Antonio National Park and the Osa Peninsula. It is a nature lover’s paradise with hundreds of unique and rare birds, mammals, butterflies and other interesting critters sharing the 280-acre (110-hectare) property. Rio Magnolia provides superior accommodations, food and service for up to 16 people comfortably.

John and Maureen’s mission was to build Rio Magnolia in a manner that conserved the rainforest and wildlife living there with low impact on the environment. The water from the Magnolia River generates 100% of the electricity used by the Lodge through a 12kw hydroelectric system. This renewable energy source produces no emissions or waste. They have built a number of solar dryers and a greenhouse for their organic garden. Produce that is not grown in the garden or on the many tropical fruit trees on the property is sourced from the local farmers’ market. The Costa Rican government has recognized Rio Magnolia’s efforts by awarding it their highest “Tourismo Sostenible” classification for outstanding achievement in sustainable tourism and wildlife protection.

John Paterson processes raw coffee beans through a pulping machine. The beans are then washed, fermented, dried, and hulled before being roasted.

Ninety of their 110 hectares are primary and secondary rainforest, which is protected. The balance is pasture for some cows and horses. A reforestation project is underway to reclaim some of the pasture. John and Maureen have planted more than 7,000 shade Arabica coffee plants on the property and process the fruit to produce high-quality coffee beans for guests and for sale at local retailers.

The Patersons actively support nearby communities by hiring and buying locally and assisting local schools, especially with science projects. They pioneered recycling in the nearest town by providing marked barrels for cans, plastic and glass. Once a week, they pick up the barrels and transport them 20 kms to a recycling centre. As the town does not have garbage collection, the recycling program has helped reduce the amount of refuse burned. Not only is Rio Magnolia an eco-friendly oasis, but it’s also a fun destination for adventure tourism seekers. During a December visit, my wife and I took advantage of many of the exciting activities and experiences in the area. This included zip-lining through the rainforest canopy, horseback-riding to Costa Rica’s famous Nauyaca Falls, white-water rafting on the Savegre River, ATV plantation touring, and catamaran snorkeling. As well, we enjoyed hiking to waterfalls and swimming on the property, seeing a calf born, and assisting with coffee bean processing. Other highlights were the many tropical birds, including toucans, and a variety of monkeys.

One of the guest rooms at the Lodge is named El Cielo, Spanish for “heaven.” It’s well chosen for the way John and Maureen Paterson have traded their careers down in the mines for a piece of sunlit heaven called Rio Magnolia.


Rio Magnolia is becoming the place to be in Costa Rica for Queen's alumni!  Sally Taylor, Artsci'77, sent  us this photo of her January trip to the eco-lodge.  Standing, left to right: Steve Grinius, Sc‘77, Patricia (Loney) Grinius, NSc’77, Maureen (O’Shaughnessy) Paterson, Sc’81, John Paterson, Sc’78, MSc'83, Taras Dzuiba, Sc’77, and Dave Passfield, Sc’77. In front: Dave Taylor, Sc’77, Sally (Moffat) Taylor, Artsci ‘77, and Krista Passfield.

[Queen's Alumni Review 2014-2 cover]