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Ballena National Park - famous whale tail beach
Ballena National Park

A volunteer group, the Vicinos Naccion, has created and implemented a beach cleaning and protection education group for the three beaches of Ballena National Park: Playa Uvita, Playa Colonia, and Playa Pinuelas ecosystems. The group is comprised of locals and entrepreneurs within the area who felt increasing consternation at the pollution and garbage issues affecting the protected beaches, prompting them to contribute to the public consciousness of the cause by creating an exemplary action group. This group displays the fruition of environmental like minds setting the standard from the grass roots into successful, growing projects in Uvita and surrounding areas.

organisms on Playa Chaman, Ballena
A glimpse of the organisms that are affected first hand by the trash.

Montreal born Jinette Bariteau is the creator of Vicinos Naccion, developed to restore the beaches and properly educate the communities. After living in Costa Rica for three years, one and a half of which she has spent running the “Mad About Diving” dive shop in Bahias entrance to the beach, she witnessed the paradox of a community thriving on the natural resource of these three beaches without maintaining an equilibrium of protecting their habitats. Letters to newspapers from locals have reported seeing an increase in garbage on the beaches without adequate bins for trash or recycling, which results in the garbage getting carried off with the tides into the ocean.

“As a dive shop, we were always involved in proactive protection, such as the International Day of the Reef. We need to regain the Blue Flag of quality consciousness at our beaches. We’ve always realized it is the quality of our beach that counts, which is determined by multiple factors, including the community’s involvement in regular cleaning,” Bariteau replied on her motivations for forming the group. “Our dive shop has been alone in the effort for the most part. This group was created to first help the problem, but in hopes to educate and irradicate the problem for the future.

Bahia entrance to Ballena National Park
Bahia entrance to Ballena National Park

The group Vicinos Naccion was officially created in July 2010 after Bariteau went door-to-door and spoke with community business owners to gauge that the opinion climate was supportive for restorations and beach cleaning education throughout the communities of Ballena National Park. They held a local meeting inviting all who wished to participate, and voted for a council of members (namely entrepreneurs in the area, locals, and employees from the national park). In September of 2010 they rallied with posters for volunteers to join them from businesses, the local community and schools to help them clean with garbage bags. Since then, they have had two other clean ups – one on September 25th, and the most recent being January 15th – both of which brought a greater turn out than the last.

Environmental groups like Vicinos Naccion are vying to set standards for Ballena National park and claim their hopeful future projects satiate the growing tourist demand and the ecosystems in the area. Beach clean ups will occur once per month- rotating between the three beaches of Uvita, Colonial, and Pinuela. Each member on the formed council will head a sub-committee, such as one for sewage, or one for education.

“Education will prove to be the most difficult appendage of this struggle. We need to educate from the bottom-up approach to intice a new standard and formation of values and respect for the beaches. Otherwise, the problem will persist. Our main goal is prevention.” said Bariteau on projected difficulties of some programs to change the attitude regarding proactive maintenance of the beaches.

Groups in the Ballena National Park communities have been conscious of the increasing amount of traffic and pollution contributing to the degredation of the beach’s welfare. They are actively contributing to the solution dialogue by taking action. They hope more volunteers will want to contact Vicinos Naccion and take part in subcommitees, beach clean ups, and efforts to raise money.

For further information on the subject or to contribute, please contact info at madaboutdiving.com

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