How can we proactively protect our oceans, waves and beaches to avoid constantly fighting projects that threaten them?
That is just the question the Rincón Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation is trying to answer and they are working with the entire community to try and achieve it. It is a lofty goal and one that will require some major changes in the way that the community addresses future growth. To do so, we hope to demonstrate that economic growth, environmental conservation and preservation of community character do not need to be at odds.
A first major achievement towards this sustainable future was the establishment of the Reserva Marina Tres Palmas – the first marine reserve on the mainland of Puerto Rico and perhaps the first marine protected area designed to protect a surf spot – the big wave surfing spot it was named after- Tres Palmas.
Tres Palmas Wave Photo: Steve Fitzpatrick
August 3rd marked a milestone in these efforts. That morning Surfrider activist Steve Tamar and two Municipal employees installed the first of five interpretive signs that describe the Reserva Marina Tres Palmas, the marine life that lives in the reserve, and also the dos and don’ts to keep the place healthy. These signs will inform locals and visitors alike of the beauty and natural resources to be found in this special place. Thanks to Surfing Magazine for sponsoring the design and production of these beautiful signs.
That same afternoon the Comité Timón (Steering Committee) met for the first time. The group met to begin developing a plan that will guide the management of the reserve and set the stage for long term protection for some of the healthiest elkhorn coral in the Caribbean.
The Committee members represent local fishers, local businesses, local citizens, the Municipality, the Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources, the local university, coral reef scientists, and the Surfrider Foundation. The group met to discuss the process for developing the plan and reviewed initial materials that will inform the process. It is clear that the group is interested, engaged and willing to work together to make a difference for the reefs at Tres Palmas. Dr. Manuel “Manolo” Valdés Pizzini is facilitating the meetings and development of the plan is being funded by NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation program.
Although a meeting about process and developing a plan may seem mundane, it represents a dream come true for the Rincón Chapter. Four years ago the idea of a special protected area to protect the surf, coral and other marine life was formulated as part of a long-term strategy to protect the area. The Surfrider Foundation, other groups, and many Rincoeños have worked hard to make this vision a reality.
With the process of protecting the reefs well underway, the Rincón Chapter is now looking towards the land and is supporting a process to develop a local land use plan, increase local economic opportunities, and support better governance so all Rincoeños have an opportunity to prosper in Rincón’s future. Healthy reefs require a healthy watershed and a healthy watershed requires a healthy community.
Stay tuned as the Rincón Chapter and Rincoeños work to make surfing, living and visiting Rincón a rich and lively experience for years to come. You can learn more about this campaign at: www.surfrider.org/rincon.