36 km west of Ciudad Quesada you will find the “Eternal Forest of Children” (Bosque Eterno de los Niños “BEN”) Reserve, which owes its name to the work done by thousands of children around the world (in forty-four countries) to collect funds that are invested in the acquisition of lands that make up the park.
Currently, this park extends over a total of 20,000 hectares of protected tropical forest, forming the largest private reserve in Costa Rica. It was declared in 2007 part of the water and peace biosphere reserve by UNESCO. This nature reserve is little known and visited, so the possibility of watching wild animals is greater than in nearby more known reserves and national parks.
An awesome story.
The Eternal Forest of Children is the largest private biological reserve in Costa Rica, but it was thanks to the initiative of Swedish students to conserve the natural environment of “Monteverde”.
The students of the rural school “Fagerviks” of the city of Sorunda, located in the south of Stockholm, decided to bake gingerbread cookies and chocolate to protect the tropical forests. It all started when Professor Eha Kern invited the American biologist Sharon Kinsman of the Monteverde Conservation Association (ACM) to the class to tell her experience in the country and teach young people to understand and respect nature in 1987.
Costa Rica has a 54% forest area, despite suffering one of the fastest deforestation rates in Latin America in the eighties. Monteverde is a community created by North Americans who fled their country due to forced military recruitment.
In 1986 these families created the ACM to manage the development, they bought the farms that were isolated from the forests, later they had to acquire jungle land and they worried about the agricultural development that destroyed the forest. The biologist (Insuman) began by showing photos of the cloud forests, water reserves, diverse fauna, and flora, and explained why it was important to conserve these spaces from any type of threat. Also, it was announced that the spaces that appeared deforested had a size similar to that of a soccer field.
Thanks to the visit of Sharon Kinsman, the nine-year-old Swedish student, Roland Teinsuu along with his teacher convinced the entire school and classmates to collect money to buy and protect the forest. It all started with the sale of gingerbread and chocolate cookies, collecting recyclable glass and metal, grooming pets or asking for donations as birthday presents. Eha Kern and her husband Bernd created the non-profit association “Barnes Regnskog” (The Children’s Forest) and allied with Kinsman and submitted to Monteverde the request to purchase six hectares with a price of $ 250, which were at the border with the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve.
The creation of this reserve served to give citizens an intense environmental education program. Besides, in the Tropical Science Center, studies on climate change are conducted, as it contains great biodiversity because of its location.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve was created in 1972 when ornithologist George Powell joined Milford Guindan to protect the biodiversity that was under threat. Currently, the Eternal Forest of Children has a territory of 25,600 hectares, making it the largest private reserve in Costa Rica, all thanks to the help of the children of the association that managed to raise the funds to save the flora and fauna of one of the most touristic places in the nation. Also, the Swedish International Development Agency was involved in environmental education and reforestation for the project, also, 43 countries contributed to protecting the forest and jungle.
The nature paths inside the Eternal Forest are the places where the “Environmental Education Programs” are given by the ACM, primarily to the native inhabitants of the area. There is also the “Agua y Paz Biosphere” Reserve, along with many other biological reserves in the zone.
Finally, Professor Eha Kern and Roland Tiensuu received the “Goldman Environment Prize” in 1991 as recognition for their defense of nature and the environment. The association acquired 675 hectares of more forest land from the “Sierras Mina” Reserve in Guatemala and continues its work to conserve forests in Ecuador and Thailand.
Protection and Maintenance.
As soon as the ACM acquired land, it had to be protected from several threats, and the ACM hired its first forest rangers in 1987. Currently (2018) the ACM has 12 maintenance and protection personnel to cover 23,000 hectares.
Illegal land occupants (precarious) are no longer a big problem, but there are still serious threats with hunting, illegal logging, and wildlife extraction, especially on the Caribbean side of BEN. Maintenance is also essential for the BEN, including bush clearing of the boundaries and maintenance of facilities, infrastructure, and trails.
The ACM works closely with other organizations and individuals, such as SINAC, other private reserves, the public police force, firefighters, the Red Cross, COVIRENAS volunteers, and individuals, to carry out the complicated work of protecting BEN and its natural resources.
The ACM has identified the following immediate priorities for donations and organizational growth:
–-Equity fund. It is a fund created to receive and invest specific donations, where only 5-10% interest generated per year is used.
–-Purchase and protection of land. Donations of this category are used as follows: 50% purchase of land; 40% protection (salaries, legal expenses, vehicles, etc.), and 10% for the equity fund.
–-Environmental education. To cover the salary of our full-time environmental educators in “La Tigra” and to support excursions and quality programs.
The “BEN” is one of the most incredible natural laboratories in the world, but it has hardly been studied. Donations to this category will help promote research and also be used where most needed. Its altitude ranges from 450 to 1,800 meters and is characterized by an abrupt topography with hills, valleys, mountains, and canyons. The rivers in the area are abundant with fast currents, draining both sides, the Atlantic and the Pacific. The Peñas Blancas, La Esperanza, Aranjuez, Guácima and San Lorenzo rivers stand out. The Children’s Forest is very important as a basin because it supplies water to hundreds of communities and hydroelectric projects. Since the reserve is very large the average temperature varies according to the area. It oscillates between 16º C and 24º C. The rainfall is around 4,000 mm per year.
BEN’s two field stations, San Gerardo and Poco Sol, offer an incomparable opportunity to enjoy and admire something very different from the typical tourist spots and immerse you into the heart of the tropical forest. San Gerardo Station is located at Monteverde, a 4 km walk from the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve Park. Poco Sol Station is accessible by double traction vehicles from La Fortuna, Arenal, or San Carlos.
If you do not have time to spend a night in one of the Stations, the unique forest of Reserva “Bajo del Tigre”, in the heart of Monteverde, is perfect for a one day trek. Also offered are open eco-education classes in all our facilities, and also in the hotels of the Monteverde area. Come and share with your children this great experience and at the same time educate and raise awareness about the need for taking care of Mother Nature.