Today was the first day of our community service projects. Centro Ecologico Akumal has organized a number of activities for us to dedicate our time to for the few days. This volunteer work will help CEA in their pursuit of a sustainable community as well as encourage positive and beneficial human interactions with the natural environment. In the morning Alma, who has been our coordinator from CEA, showed us a video that their organization produced regarding the recent increase in development for this area. This area started becoming popular in the 1970's as a tourist destination, since that time has grown 1000 percent, and with that development came workers from all around Mexico who needed places to live outside of the resort areas. The video also discusses how tourism is necessary and important for this area, however it must be conducted in a sustainable way and there are many things the individual can do to help. For more information on ways to help go to www.coralconnections.org.
We divided up into two separate groups in order to get the most work accomplished. The first group started out the day cleaning up the trash on the south end of Akumal beach. Later we drove to a small park located near Yal-Ku Lagoon to clean it up and make it appropriate and pleasant for recreational use. We used machetes to clear the trail, picked up trash, and used rakes to clear the paths. We then took turns doing Bay Patrol for CEA in the kayaks. This entails monitoring the snorkelers to make sure they do not damage the coral or disturb the wildlife. We were given a whistle and permission to yell at tourists, so it was a good opportunity to release pent-up aggression.
The second group went to the rocky shoreline north of Half Moon Bay first where we picked up trash, of which there was a lot of. It is very disappointing to see such beautiful areas cluttered with ugly garbage, especially because it is conceivably avoidable. Our next activity was working on one of the constructed wetlands located on the CEA property. We separated some of the plants from each other and then re-planted them in different areas so that they could grow better. Then we cleared leaves and dead debris in order to allow for better filtration. Later in the afternoon we cleaned trash and leaves from one of the natural dune areas, which provides better growth for the plants in the understory so the area is more stable and less prone to erosion. Although it was difficult work and hot outside it felt good to clean up each of these areas and benefit the natural environment.