Mex 3 – Road Construction a’la Baja

Traveling the highways of Baja are – well – different than driving stateside.  When a huge rock slide close off a section of Mex 1 – the main north/south artery that connects Tijuana with Cabo San Lucas, the locals got to work.  In the USA, next steps would be emergency vehicles, flashing red lights, and weeks of no passage.  In Baja, next steps are a couple of guys with pickup trucks and ropes who move the offending obstructions out of the way, followed by maybe a friend with a bulldozer pushing some of the dirt aside.  I.e., roads are the lifeline .. and the residents don’t wait for the government to fix things.

Mex 3 – a southern route from San Felipe along the western edge of the Sea of Cortez has long been an out-of-the-way route that that terminated at Mex 1 near Lake Chapala. Mostly rugged washboard miles with an occasional paved section that washed out during hurricanes, the road was merciless on tires, suspensions, and overall mechanics of vehicles.

During the last two decades, small fishing villages have given way to retirement homes for gringos from the states, and the road has become more popular.  Gonzaga Bay, originally a landing strip with fly-in homes, now sports an upgraded hotel and multiple restaurants.

In their continuing effort to enhance access to all parts Baja, the government has set about ambitious road development projects, and Mex 3 is one of them.  The included photographs illustrate the scope of this project, the fact that a little dirt never hurt an intrepid Baja traveler, and the vast beauty of the landscape.

Just as Mex 1 was a dream before it opened in 1972, Mex 3 will provide an alternative to the crowded western route.

Building a Blueprint for Coastal Community Conservation

[first published by The Ocean Foundation, November 6, 2013]

Imagine ….

Imagine … a cadre of youth educated and dedicated to protecting and nurturing their environment and sharing that knowledge with family and friends …

Imagine … a group of energetic hands-on volunteers committed to solving local issues of water quality, waste management and resource protection …

Imagine … a community center where like-minded individuals come together, a gathering space for researchers, government organizations, local partners and fishermen to chart paths to preserve natural resources and their ways of life …

Imagine …  a staff of talented enthusiastic leaders guiding and directing activities of such a center with outreach programs in support of environmental goals …

Imagine … partners, sponsors, supporters, and Directors with the resources and connections to fund and support a foothold and voice in the stewardship of a wide range of environmental activities …

Imagine … relentless visionaries with tireless energy determined to make a difference, to manifest a dream, in a small seaside city …

Imagine these things … and then stop imagining, because they are real.

CenCoMa Building (Photo Credit: Rick Jackson)

CenCoMa Building (Photo Credit: Rick Jackson)

On October 19, 2013, the Community Center for the Environment, CenCoMA (Centro Comunitario para el Medio Ambiente), in Loreto, BCS, Mexico celebrated its formal dedication. Over 150 people turned out in support of the celebration, which began a blessing by the Padre of Our Lady of Loreto Mission, and was followed by a ribbon cutting by the representatives from the Local government, the Director of the Bay of Loreto National Park, Everardo Mariano Melendez, and Yvo Arias Salorio, Board President.

Delicious food and beverages were served to the enthusiastic guests who toured the new facility.  A large screen display provided a backdrop amongst the café tables set up for the event, with images that illustrated some of the perils that challenge the local environment The dedication solidified the physical framework of an on-going dream, where making a difference isn’t just something spoken, but actually taking place on a day-to-day basis.

Advisory Board Members/ Richard Jackson, Jill Jackson, Charles Mitchel and Roberto Lopez (Photo Credit: Rick Jackson).

Advisory Board Members/ Richard Jackson, Jill Jackson, Charles Mitchel and Roberto Lopez (Photo Credit: Rick Jackson).

At the heart of CenCoMA is Eco-Alianza de Loreto, founded in 2007 by a group of concerned citizens and friends in the Loreto municipality to support smart growth strategies in response to rapid development by outside interests.  Over the past six years, Eco-Alianza has strived to establish a sustainable community devoted to conserving the abundance and diversity of terrestrial and marine life.

In less than a year since it’s opening, CenCoMA has already become a valued asset to the community of Loreto. The Center is strategically located in the center of town and was made possible through a gift by the Linda and Anthony Kinninger Trust.  Renovations converted the property to offices and a public meeting space and were made possible by a donation from Engineer Hugo Quintero Maldonado, founding President of Eco-Alianza, Kathryn and Charles Mitchell, and an anonymous donation from a U.S. foundation.

The Center currently houses a Water Quality Lab for testing and office space for a professional staff of eight who conduct programs that include:

  • A Campaign for a Clean Loreto
  • Citizen Monitoring of our Marine Environment
  • Loretanos for a “Sea Full of Life”
  • Sustainable Fisheries Project
  • The Loreto Watershed Conservation Campaign
  • The Environmental Leadership Club
  • Environmental Education for Loreto Youth and Community
  • Outreach programs to celebrate conservation days, such as Earth Day, World Ocean Day, World Environment Day, World Water Day, Recycling Day

Along with those programs, Eco-Alianza is working with Loreto’s decision-makers to create responsible growth policies, a watershed conservation ecological ordinance, and fisheries regulations.  It is hoped that these endeavors will become an example for other coastal communities to follow worldwide.

Caption:  Tony Kinninger, Kenneth Quintero, Hugo Quintero, Lorenzo Ochoa, Everardo Mariano, Linda Kinninger, Horacio Cabrera, Jorge Magdaleno, Antonio Verdugo, Mayra Gpe Lopez Lemus, Lizandro Soto, and Lizandro Soto Martinez (Photo Credit: Rick Jackson).

Caption: Tony Kinninger, Kenneth Quintero, Hugo Quintero, Lorenzo Ochoa, Everardo Mariano, Linda Kinninger, Horacio Cabrera, Jorge Magdaleno, Antonio Verdugo, Mayra Gpe Lopez Lemus, Lizandro Soto, and Lizandro Soto Martinez (Photo Credit: Rick Jackson).

Eco-Alianza has embarked on collaborative effort to establish a “Sister Park” program to advance eco-tourism and job opportunity in the region.  To support this endeavor, it has partnered with the Bay of Loreto National Park, the Channel Islands National Park, the University of California Santa Barbara, and the Nature Conservancy.

The Center allows Eco-Alianza to expand its program capability, visibility, and outreach.  The Center will serve as a permanent symbol of conservation and preservation for the entire Loreto region for generations to come.

The Ocean Foundation (TOF) has been an integral part of Eco-Alizana since its inauguration.  TOF President, Mark Spalding and Vice-President of Programs, Kama Dean are members of the Eco-Alianza Advisory Board.  TOF has supported educational programs, the annual calendar, and general activities.  The original funding for the “Pride Campaign,” as well as a fisheries program begun by RARE Conservation were provided by TOF.  Advisory support was provided for CenCoMA.

Phase II of the expansion of the CenCoMA facility has just begun.  A fundraising campaign is underway to build a Natural History Museum and an Interpretive Learning Center on the property to support of the Bay of Loreto National Park and the Sierra de la Giganta region.

To continue the expansion of CenCoMA and help further the efforts of Eco-Alianza and its programs, your help is needed.  To find our more information about Eco-Alianza’s programs, or to make a donation, please visit Eco-Alianza’s website at: www.ecoalianzaloreto.org.

Donations are tax deductible in the U.S.A. or through our fiscal sponsor in the U.S.A., The Ocean Foundation. Click here to donate!

Thank you for being part of our dream.

Teaching Children to Love the Sea

How do you teach someone to love the ocean? 

We know that to love something means to embrace, cherish and protect it.  One of the keys to developing a sense of love and understanding is a sound educational program.  To instill  sense of caring for our seas is critical to the health of our blue planet’s waters.

In the small Baja California Sur city of Loreto, a community-based environmental group, Eco-Alianza, continues to spearhead educational programs for the local youth.   They are committed to introducing the sea in all her aspects – above and below the surface – and the problems facing her – with hands on programs. Theses programs serve multiple purposes:

  • To awaken a deeper understanding and love of the sea that supports their community and lifestyles.
  • To introduce more effective ways to care for the resource, such as proper trash handling and problems associated with plastic
  • To clarify problems associated with overfishing and capture of protected species, such as turtles.

“Cursos Naturales” is one of Eco-Alizana’s programs.  Organized and taught by course director, Edna Peralta, the curriculum familiarizes children 8-12 years old with the treasures of the sea.  The study program is funded in part by local fundraising efforts and by The Ocean Foundation, a Washington, D.C. based philanthropic organization dedicated to reversing the trend of destruction of ocean environments.

During the course of study, the students were introduced to sea kayaking, experienced whales and dolphins, and spent time simply playing on the beach.  These activities were mixed with selected readings, learning games and lectures.  Toward the end of the classes, EcoAlianza paired with Loreto Art School.   Easels were set up, paints provided, and each student was asked to paint a picture of what they had learned and loved.

At the end of their course, a celebration was held in the newly dedicated Community Center for the Environment – CenCoMA of Eco-Alianza.   Family members, friends and community members attended the event which included sharing and song.  Each student stood in turn and gave a short explanation of what was represented in their painting.  Ms. Peralta asked pointed questions, such as, “Why do you love the whales?”  “What threats face them?”  and “What can you do to help protect them?”  Without falter, each student provided answers that reflected an absorbed knowledge base that was now integral to their belief system. “What makes me the happiest,” Ms. Peralta shared with her students, “is when you go home and teach your family and friends what you have learned here.”

What they have learned they now share with their peers, their extended family, and their community – an extension of their education.  Their voices become a guiding force for tomorrow.  These young new stewards carry the future health of our oceans through their knowledge, their actions, and their commitment to protect the seas.

Eco-Alianza de Loreto, A.C. is a grassroots nonprofit organization committed to protecting the coastal, marine and terrestrial eco-systems of the Loreto region, engaging different sectors of Loreto society, carrying out education and outreach campaigns, promoting and conducting research and actively engaging the region’s decision makers.

Tsunami debris: Garbage wave could hit Hawaii, U.S. West Coast & Baja California

The ocean does link us all,and whatever we toss into it, it simply floats through its cycles and currents. Think about her, before you toss random garbage, drain your car wash into the streets, or imagine that somehow, your actions don’t count …

Fukushima (global-adventures.us): Massive amounts of debris are floating in the Pacific Ocean; and between one and five percent of the garbage could wash up on the shores of Hawaii, Alaska, British Columbia, and the U.S. west coast. The ocean debris, estimated at 3.6 million tones, is a result of the magnitude-9 earthquake and the resulting tsunami in Japan (Global Adventures reported here). Several large buoys, possibly originating from Japanese oyster farms, already washed up on Alaska shores, and Nikolai Maximenko, a senior researcher and ocean current expert at the University of Hawaii, says that 0.9 – 1.8 million tons of debris could reach the islands in early 2013.

“In a year, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument will see pieces washing up on its shores; in two years, the remaining Hawaiian Islands will see some effects; in three years, the plume will reach the U.S. West Coast, dumping debris on Californian beaches and the beaches of British Columbia, Alaska and Baja California,”

read more ::: ”

via Tsunami debris: Garbage wave could hit Hawaii, U.S. West Coast « Global Adventures, LLC.

Cow Poop and Midnight Rock Throwing

Beach Cattle

Okay : the unfenced range cattle are entertaining as they wander down the beach during daylight hours.  They piss off the dogs, but can be dissuaded from ‘home’ invasion by yelling, the blast of a hose, or a kind of ‘run-at-em’ motion.

At night – Not the same deal.

Last night, the dogs were just going off!  Shorty & Diego were barking at the top of their doggy vocal chords – and relentlessly.  Inside, Buster joined the howling chorus.  Yes, the dogs were doing their one job – GUARDING!

I’d been asleep for a bit over an hour – and in that groggy deep space where even though I knew I should get up, I kept hoping the dogs would simply settle down.

Then the phone rang.  Jeanne, next door, said, “They jumped my wall and they’re eating everything. The cows!  Now they’re in your yard.”  She was walking outside with her portable phone giving me a blow by blow report of the cattle escapade.  “There’s poop everywhere!”

“I’ll be right there,” I responded.  I’ve just got to throw on some clothes.

When I opened the front door, Buster tore off toward the tinkling bell one of the cattle has on his neck.  I rounded the corner behind him, just as Jeannie heaved a rock.  I dodged the rock and the cow made a dash out of the yard – right toward me.  Horns and all.  I leaped behind the F-150 and the cow kept on going.  One down, one to go.

I stepped into the yard and tried to shoo the second one out the now open fence, while Jeanne searched for more rocks.  How the fence got open, I have no idea.  Maybe the cattle pushed it open, but when the second intruder cleared the gate, I pulled it shut and reset the chain.

I reset the cylinder, sent a ‘good night’ to Jeanne, along with some shared belly laughs at our cow filled ‘hood’ and turned back to the house – only to step right in a fresh mound of cow poop!  GOODY!  Now I had to shower and wash my slippers and listen to the cling-cling of the belled-bull wander off into the night.

Still beats the 405 at rush-hour.

sentinels

Sentinels

Known as ‘the cleaners’ of the desert,’ an appearance of turkey vultures circling overhead is a sure sign that something in the vicinity is dead. With haste and efficiency, the flock will find and eliminate all fleshy materials, and leave a skeleton and fur/skin in place of what was once an animal.

On the beaches in Baja, vultures oftentimes compete with seagulls for spent fish or squid that wash up on the shore. The seagulls are in first – going for the freshest of the remains, while the vultures gather to the side – waiting – to follow up and eliminate the remains. What the vultures leave is not enough to attract a fly.

While not considered a particularly handsome bird – they have turkey-like wattle around their beaks – they are in well suited for their task. They have broad short wings that let them glide aloft with little to no effort and easily spot the carcasses of dead rabbit, ground squirrel, or fish.

I came upon this group in the photograph above sitting atop one of the larger cardons in the open land behind my home. They weren’t hunting, nor drying their wings – more like they were having a chat session – gossiping about the local rabbits or the long summer’s lack of rain. The building clouds just slightly to the west hung most of the afternoon with promise, but if they let go of precious water, it was in the mountains and not the seaside plain.

This morning – vultures again down the beach hopping around/over something left behind by the tide – doing the job that they are admirable designed to complete.

Homage to the Home Planet

Earth Day-Loreto Pride 2011

Earth Day – Loreto Pride were celebrated on April 10, 2011 with a community cleanup of the Arroyo Candeleria.  The event was sponsored by the Waterkeeper Alliance, Parque Nacional Bahia de Loreto, Loretanos por un mar lleno de vida, and Eco-Alianza de Loreto. A.C.

As in years past, the arroyo had been used by those less educated about the affects of garbage as a dumping ground for unimaginable waste.  During the dry winter season, the arroyo serves mostly as a road from Mex 1 into the beach front community, but in the rainy season, it can/does become a roaring torrent, pushing everything in its path into the Sea of Cortez.  Hence, the need to remove the accumulated refuse, and save the waters from unnecessary pollution.

Discarded Refuse in the Arroyo Candeleria

There was grousing in the community about ‘cleaning up “that” place again’ … accompanied with ‘they’re just going to fill up up with trash when we’re finished’ … but the choice of the arroyo was the right one.  Intelligent and needed, no matter who caused or created the refuse.  At the end of the day, it was the sea that won – and those who live near it and call upon it for their livelihood.

Waste management is an on-going concern for every community, not only pickup, but what to do with our collective garbage once it leaves our doorstep?  It’s not only a residential problem, but a commercial one, as well.  The nuclear fuel crisis in Fukishima, Japan heightens awareness of exactly what we humans create, and the havoc we face in disposal.  Batteries, florescent tubing, toxic motor oils, paint thinners, industrial cleaners, acids …substances poisonous enough to cause serious and even deadly harm to man.  We create them, we use them, but what do with do with them when we are ‘done’?

On Earth Day this year in Loreto, something wondrous happened.  Over 200 school age youth arrived at the registration desk, ready to put their energies into their community.  They were not the creators or the garbage mess, nor did they necessarily live in close proximity, but there they were, ready to put muscle and heart into protecting the waters that they love.

Over 200 Local Youth Signed Up to Help with the Cleanup!

Rubber gloves and contractors trash bags were disseminated at both registration, and along the cleanup route.  There was a water truck to make sure that everyone was hydrated, and multiple pickup trucks to cart the collected refuse to the dump – where is should have been deposited in the first place.

They brought friends, cellphones, and great attitudes.  In fact, I don’t think the arroyo has ever been cleaned as quickly as with this small energetic army!  There were expected ughs and gags.  I mean, not only garbage but dead animals were in the mix.

Some of the things I personally picked up : plastic, plastic, plastic (remind me NEVER AGAIN to use a plastic bag to carry something)((when it sits in the sun, plastic doesn’t degrade, it merely hardens – so that when you go to pick it up, it breaks into millions of itty bitty pieces of plastic!!)), dirty diapers, plastic bottles (yes, more plastic), tin cans, empty food containers, partially full food containers, cigarette boxes, broken and unbroken bottles, cardboard boxes, broken plastic cracks, broken trash cans, toilet paper, Kleenex, more plastic bags wrapped around cactus and trees, building materials, old bits of rubber piping, florescent light bulbs shattered into millions of pieces –

SIDEBAR : As I sat in the dirt trying to pick up as many tiny fragments of glass as possible, I was struck by the beauty of the sunlight on the shards, and my thoughts was – wow – if I were a fish or a dolphin or whatever – I’d be attracted by the shimmering beauty and for sure take a bite!  Sudden – or maybe agonizingly slow – death.

… and still more : old bricks, broken tiles, trashed appliances – and/or parts of appliances, motor oil cans, paint cans, foam cups, foam bits and pieces, school books, notebooks, papers, cigarette butts, plastic trays (does the uses of plastic never end?), plastic water bottles, lamp shades …… There was more – over 30 filled trucks and trailer trips to the dump!

Students Created a Demonstration Board on Value of Clean Seas

And when we were done?  Amazing.  A clean arroyo, just as it should be.  Filled with mesquite and paloverde.  For a few minutes, we all sighed, smiled, and congratulated ourselves on our work… and then set to thinking how to educate those who do not understand the relationship between their actions and the health of the seas.

The crowd of dusty dirty volunteers headed up the beach to Rancho Jaral, where a celebratory barbecue was held.  Hats off to all community volunteers, including the Marine Park, ZOEFEMAT, Hugo Quintero, Tony and Linda Kinninger, Pam and Kent Williams, Mary and Nick Lampros, Catharine Cooper, the students and their participation in the EAL workshop under the direction of Edna Peralta, Program Administrator for Education and Outreach, Horacio Gabrera – Exectutive Director of Eco-Alianza, and Gaby Suarez – Program Director for the new Waste Management Program.