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.

Swimmers take your mark!

The last 1/4 mile …..

The second annual swim race from Picazone to Isla Coronado took place yesterday, 13 October 2012 just north of Loreto. One hundred forty four (144) people from as far as Mexico City and Ashland, Oregon, signed up to swim. The day before the race, the winds picked up and blew through the day and into the night, and were unabated in the morning. 20/25mph constant with gusts in the plus 30 range whipped the sea into a frothy stew of whitecaps breaking on top of 5′ ground swells. Perfect conditions (NOT) for a 5.5 km swim between the peninsula and the tiny islet (oldest volcano in Baja) where currents and tides make for a difficult passage even on a glassy day.

The race co-ordinator did his best to discourage swimmers who were not in extremely great condition, trained for the race and confident in their ability to make the crossing. In spite of his warnings, 122 men, women and teens jumped into the warm turbulent sea and began the journey across.

Pangas, sports boats and kayaks offered support and encouragement and pulled swimmers who became overwhelmed by the conditions onto their boats.

I had earlier decided to SUP (stand up paddle) and registered accordingly. There were three others set to paddle – but either did not show up because of conditions or did not enter the water. Maybe smarter than me 🙂

My initial goal was the first flag. Once I managed that I thought, well, the second flag. This all the while with a backup plan of turning around and heading back to shore (as my girlfriend had requested that I do). But once I passed the second flag I was, okay .. now to the third flag. Of course, by the third marker, the seas had kicked up in the 5’/6′ range, and while standing up on my board I’d find myself in the trough of these large groundswells with no clear view of the horizon.

When the second 6 footer tossed me into the sea, I switched from SUP to SDP (sit down paddle). Even with a reduced face to the blasting wind, I was being pushed south (had to go north to make the island) faster than I could paddle. I also found it near impossible to keep the nose of the board into the wind — finally, I put my left leg into the water – an extra rudder, and while paddling with my leg created drag and slowed me down (more), at least I was heading in the right direction. Several adjustments, like pulling up leg and using foot only as a directional rudder until the wind took the nose again, allowed for forward motion. Every muscle in my body was screaming at me – and I just dug down and found more to pull from.

I encountered a young woman swimming alone. She looked up in a 360 motion – like where is everybody? I paddled toward here and paddled near her while she made her way past the rocks into the cove and onto the beach.

When I reached the sand, it was almost anti-climactic. Like – where’s the battle now? I rang the victory bell – signed in – and photographed other swimmers making their way.

To each and everyone who completed yesterday’s difficult crossing – Congratulations! And even for those who were turned back, congratulations on your efforts!

Can’t wait for next year!

Heaven’s Palette

After the rain : and before the next. The sky breaks out her palette of colors beyond the brush and pigment. Hues and shades that catch in the throat with their beauty. A veritable cloak of golden light that beckons, woos, dances on the edges of the mind.

Under my feet, the sand, the desert – already paying hommage to the life gift of water from the earlier deluge. Everywhere the scent of moisture. Pools, small lakes of water. Arroyos that have found the sea after too many months of drought. The rushing waters sing with their ebb and flow …..

Island Living

Loreto is surrounded by seven islands, which lend themselves to abundant snorkeling, diving, fishing, whale/dolphin/manta watching, sailing, SUP. and beaching opportunities. It’s a water paradise with sea temps in the 80s in July, August and September.

The peninsula itself is a long finger of land surrounded wrapped by the Sea of Cortez on the east coast and the Pacific on the west. A day’s drive and a traveler can experience two vastly different environmental climates. The middle of the Baja can be more like an inferno mid-summer, with temps not unusual in the 110+ range.

“On the Island”

It is the sea that draws me, holds me, keeps me waking next to water and all her power to soothe, to invigorate and to heal. My new neighbor, Dave, took this photo this morning of my Casa de Catalina using an iPhone ap : http://www.photosynth.net.

It certainly appears from this image that I live on an island. What a whoop! Better get the paddles out!

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.

Baja Just Works That Way

Cormorant Takes Flight

Every trip south I am rewarded with new friends. Seems that Baja just works that way. From casual conversations in the airport to more detailed ‘get-to-know-you’ ones on the actually plane ride, and the chance encounters .. Are there chance encounters?

This trip, a meeting with Johnny Friday, the proprietor of Baja Ecotours, with whom Laura McCants, Lynn Brown, Eloise Coopersmith, and I will journey with in February to San Ignacio Lagoon. We’ll spend three days visiting the migrating grey whales and their young calfs, paddling kayaks in the mangroves, and getting to know each other better – along with new friends.

Johnny also runs a dive operation out of La Paz. I’ve booked time with him for probably August .. whale sharks and manta rays are in my scopes.

The International Conference for Sea Turtle Conservation is held annually in Loreto. At a reception, held at the stunning home of Linda and Tony Kinninger, I was able to spend some time speaking with Wallace J. Nichols, who is with the Ocean Conservancy, and had spent the last year as President of the Turtle Foundation. We spoke a bit about the video script I’ve written .. and the filming of Bill Bahn .. as a conservation educational piece to gather support for Marine Reserve programs in northern California. A popular item with conservationists .. a tough sell to commercial fisherman.

Good friend, Alexander, had been out of town for the party, but he arrived two days later with one of his life long buddies, Gaston. Gaston is a restauranteur in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and was filled with wonderful stories of life in the north. He also cooks a mean risotto.

Not to be overlooked, the chance meeting of two great guys – Dennis Choate and his friend Donn Stein, who offered up a guest house in San Juanico – if I ever make it to the other side.