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Dominican Republic

Las Garitas

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Conservation benefit: Awareness and promotion of mangrove ecosystem conservation

Community benefit: Mangrove boardwalk for environmental education and ecotourism

Date Approved: 06.2017

Ecotourism

This project supports a local conservation-based tourism initiative.

Mangroves

This project protects mangroves, which trap more CO2 than any other kind of forest and as a result, slow global warming.

Samaná Bay features the largest concentration of mangroves in the the Dominican Republic. In the winter, many humpback whales calve in the bay. Seabirds and wading birds frequent the mangroves, including petrels, brown pelicans, reddish egrets (threatened), snowy plover (near-threatened), tricolored heron, and many more. Tourists also come to see protected caves with pre-Columbian pictographs and petroglyphs.

But along the coastal fringe of Samaná Bay, mangroves are disappearing rapidly. Tourism-based construction, waste from expanding urban settlements, charcoal production, and pesticide and fertilizer runoff all contribute to the damage. With mangroves gone, villages have less protection against wind, waves, and flooding from big storms. Water quality falls, sediment increases, and fish stocks decline. And of course, critical carbon storage is destroyed.

A local nonprofit, the Center for the Conservation and Eco-Development of Samaná Bay and its Surroundings (CEBSE), works to conserve the biodiversity of Samaná Bay. CEBSE staff collaborate with local communities to support sustainable development. With Seacology’s support, CEBSE will build a 1,000-foot boardwalk, with interpretive signs and a bird-watching site, through a 23-acre mangrove area called Pedro Aloida. These mangroves, in the community of Las Garitas, are a remnant of red mangrove and black mangrove forest. The boardwalk will employ youth, and educate local people and visitors about the importance of mangroves. It will also give schoolchildren hands-on learning about coastal ecosystems.

Project Updates

June 2020

Our 2019 Earth Day crowdfunding campaign raised funds for improvements to three ecotourism projects in the DR. At Las Garitas, funds were provided for a bridge and gazebo at the walkway site. Community members are happy about the improvements and see ecotourism as a potential source of family income. The DR’s tourism-based economy has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Local ecotourism based around mangrove conservation will help bolster communities when the country begins to reopen.

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February 2020

A group of Seacology staff and board members toured the project site in January. They were accompanied by a local filmmaker who produced this short video about the project.

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May 2019

The mangrove trail is finished as planned. This infrastructure has united different community groups (women, youth, various associations, teachers, boys and girls of the school), and they are all proud of having a recreational, educational mangrove path, unique in Samaná. It has motivated community members to carry out more educational and environmental activities, including beach cleanups and native plant reforestation. Between January and April, 150 students and 60 Dominican and international tourists visited the trail.

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January 2019

The boardwalk has been constructed, along with a gazebo near the entrance to the trail. Our NGO partner, CEBSE, developed rules for boardwalk use, which are currently pending approval by community members. The main owners of properties surrounding the trail have actively supported the initiative by convincing other landowners to sponsor the protection and management of the boardwalk and beach trail. Members of the cooperative, as well as Las Garitas community members, have voluntarily committed to protect the mangrove area. To provide a higher level of protection, the next step is for a ranger to be assigned to the area. A Seacology group visited the project in January 2019.

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June 2018

Construction of the boardwalk began on May 8. It will be built on concrete piles, with a walkway and handrails of treated and protected wood. Two covered platforms with seats will provide a rest area. A coastal path will lead to the boardwalk area itself.

Seacology staff toured the site in late February 2018 and were impressed by the beauty of the area as well as the thoughtful planning done by project partner CEBSE’s staff. CEBSE is coordinating with the Ministry of the Environment regarding training of the local group that will operate the tourism site. A workshop for teachers of the nearby school, as well as members of the cooperative that will maintain the site, was held on April 27. In addition, an expert in environmental interpretation has been contacted to write a script and train local youth as interpretive guides.

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