Thursday, July 19, 2007

What is Beautify CNMI?

A lot of us who volunteer for Beautify CNMI take for granted that the world understands what it is that we are. This video should help explain.

Monday, July 16, 2007

36 Flame Trees Planted in Koblerville

Koblerville SaipanBeautify CNMI has several long term goals. We want to promote Ecotourism in the CNMI (there is currently no Ecotourism here), we want to restore and promote many of our historical landmarks (i.e. the Japanese Jail and the Lighthouse) as tourist/historical sites, we want to reduce illegal dumping and littering, and we want to create an interconnected system of parks and trails.

One of those parks is going to be located on top of the old airstrip in Koblerville, currently the site of the Koberville Youth Center and Substation.

We started work on this project last year. We took an overgrown old abandoned airstrip littered with trash and grafitti and simply started cleaning.

We mowed the grass. We got rid of the weeds. We painted over the grafitti.

We've kept this up for almost a year.

Last month, with the involvement of several government entities, we helped open up the Koblerville Youth Center. For almost a month now, we've participated in Family Fun Night, held at the Youth Center every Friday night for the residents of Koblerville.

Little by little, we are getting people to use the park and we are continuously improving it.

Flame TreesYesterday morning we planted 36 Flame Trees along the street. They are small now, but in a year they will be over 10 feet tall. In three years they will be tall enough to provide shade.

About six months ago I asked one of the Mariana Island Nature Alliance members, Brad Doerr, to start growing Flame Trees. I told him that I didn't have money to pay him then, but by the time they were tall enough to plant, I would.

I came up with an Adopt-a-Flame tree program. For $20 via cash, check or paypal, anyone in the world could purchase a Flame Tree. I promised the adoptee a certificate and a picture of their tree posted on the Internet along with the GPS coordinates of their tree.

I use the money to purchase the trees, soil, flagging tape, shovels, and whatever else we need to get the trees planted. Then I recruit volunteers to help me plant the trees and invite the people who adopted the trees to tag along.

Yesterday I had help from Ken Kramer, his mom, his wife and two kids, Missy and Jim Highfill and their kid, Rep. Cinta Kaipat, Gus Kaipat and his 30-40 nephews, Marites Castillo and the Friends of the Mariana Islands, Captain Carl and his two shipmates, Neta and Flurina, Brad Doerr, and Laura Williams and her son Caleb.

All it took for us to get these 36 trees planted were 26 tree planting volunteers (including myself), a little pre-planning on my part to ensure that we would have Flame Trees to plant during the rainy season (coordinating with Brad), and 36 generous donors to spend $20 to adopt a Flame Tree. In getting the trees adopted, we also had help from everyone who helped us man our booth at the Flame Tree Arts Festival back in April and MINA, which takes care of Beautify CNMI's finances.

Basically what I'm trying to say is that planting these 36 trees was a community effort. Probably well over 100 people had a hand in coordinating the planting, from making sure that we had trees, shovels, soil, finances, water, snacks for volunteers, to getting people to adopt the trees, to actually planting the trees, and so on and so on.

Thanks to every single one of you who helped out. These 36 trees are a significant contribution to the community of Koblerville. In 5 years, we'll all be able to say that we had a hand in providing shade, beauty, and cooler temperatures to the residents of Koblerville.

One last thing, Cinta told me to get in the group picture, so I did this:

Angelo Villagomez

Monday, July 02, 2007

Environmental Camp wrapup in the Variety

Members of the press attending our Flame Tree planting on Friday morning. This article appeared in the Marianas Variety today. The print edition had a picture of the students, but does not appear on the online edition.

Summer camp student eyes career in environmental protection
By Emmanuel T. Erediano
Variety News Staff

AT least one of the 15 middle school students who participated in the summer camp last week will pursue environmental protection as a career when she graduates from high school.

Sami Birmingham Babauta, 13, who will be with Hopwood Junior High School in the coming school year, is vice president of the Students Action for Viable Environment.
According to counselor Doug Reynolds, Babauta has decided to pursue a career in natural resource conservation.

Babauta, during the final day of the summer camp sponsored by the Mariana Islands Nature Alliance, said the activity aims to educate the youth “about the importance of every effort to protect the environment.”

The students planted flame trees at American Memorial Park before they went to Managaha on Friday afternoon.

They spend the final day of their camp on Managaha Island where they get to learn more about marine life resources.

Babauta added that since camp started on June 25, presenters from MINA, Coastal Resource Management and the Division of Fish and Wildlife discussed with them the importance of tree planting, coral reefs and wet lands.

They also learned about traditional fishing methods and how wastewater is treated at the Commonwealth Utilities Corp.’s wastewater treatment plant and the Division of Environmental Quality’s laboratories.

CRM natural resource planner Kathy Yuknavage told them about the Micronesia Challenge which aims to conserve 30 percent of the region’s near-shore marine resources and 20 percent of terrestrial resources by year 2020.

After the summer camp, which she said gave them a great learning experience, Babauta will have an internship with Beautify CNMI! and plans to hold club meetings at school.

Hopwood science teacher Bree Reynolds said the children had fun while getting hands-on training on a lot of things related to environmental protection.

Marianas Resource Conservation and Development Council’s Angelo Villagomez said they ended the summer camp with barbecue on Managaha.

Micronesia Challenge Summer Camp, Last Day

On Satuday we woke up before the sunrise, went for a swim and fed the kids s'mores and hot dogs for breakfast.

I also crushed Sami's head:

We took the 10:30 AM ferry back to Saipan. It was a great camp, guys! See you next year!

Micronesia Challenge Summer Camp, Day 5

I wrote in my previous post that Thursday was our longest day. Well, we had the kids from 9 AM on Friday until about 12 PM on Saturday, so I guess the final day was our longest day.

And, oh man, was it a long day. I got back to my house at about noon, took a shower, washing my hair about 8 times to get all the sand out, and went to bed. I felt like I had run a marathon. I got up in time to meet Mayumi and the students from Marianas High School National Honor Society for a cleanup of Micro Beach...but only barely.

But enough about my whining.

Friday's activities started at American Memorial Park. The students were transported from Hopwood to AMP in a bus provided by Tasi Tours. Again, thank you a million times, Tasi Tours. Since I live in Garapan, I just met up with them at about 9:45 at the Park.

We met Ranger Nancy at the Park Museum. She gave the kids time to go through the World War II exhibit, then signed them in for the days activities, and gave them a short talk on National Parks and safety.

When I was college I had a professor, Dr. Barry Allen, who posed the following question during one of our lectures, "Who owns the National Parks?" The other students ventured guesses like the Federal Government, the Department of the Interior, and the National Parks Service, to which Dr. Allen pointed directly at a student and said, "No, YOU own the National Parks."


That stuck with me. Ranger Nancy told the kids pretty much the same thing. She told us how lucky we were to have a National Park on Saipan and she explained that is was Our responsibility to take care of Our National Park.

Ranger Nancy took the students through a short walking tour of the Park, leading them towards the site of our tree planting, where we were met by Representative Cinta Kaipat.

I invited Cinta to participate in our tree planting and to talk to the kids about the creation of Beautify CNMI. In introducing Cinta to the kids, I told them that although Cinta was a lawyer and a lawmaker, she had chosen to make the Environment the central focus of her public service to the CNMI. I want the kids to understand that there are many ways to work the environment into your career. Maybe someday the CNMI will even have an environmentalist governor. Maybe.

After her talk, the students presented Cinta with their models of coral reefs. Cinta is going to display them up on Capital Hill for a few weeks...but then she has to give them to Ranger Nancy so that they can be displayed at American Memorial Park.

Then it was time to plant trees! Earlier in the week, Brad Doerr came into camp to teach the kids about tree care and propagation. He came to camp again to help the kids plant six Flame Trees. Thanks, Brad!

Ranger Nancy told us where she wanted the trees planted, then with help from Brad and Rep. Kaipat's staff, we broke up into six groups and dug our holes.

After all of the holes were dug, Brad and I helped each of the groups plant their Flame Tree.

It was time for lunch by the time we finished planting our trees, so we all walked back to the AMP museum and made sandwiches. A big thank you to Boni Gomez for dropping off lunch supplies!

Today was going to be a really long day, so we gave the kids most of the afternoon to relax. Our ferry to Managaha didn't leave until 3:30. We needed the kids to be awake for our night time activities. In hindsight, we should have made the kids run a few laps to tire them out. Oh well, live and learn.

Tasi Tours transported us from AMP to the dock and from the dock to Managaha, the small island a few kilometers North of Garapan. When we arrived we set up camp and got ready for a fun night.

Once camp was set up we let the kids run free for a while. They played beach volleyball (or at least tried) and went swimming. While I watched the kids, Bree got the fire going for our delicious dinner of hot dogs and vegetables...and beef jerky, chips, cookies, soda, and candy.

(note to self: next time we do this camp, don't allow the kids to bring sugar)

We couldn't have picked a better night to have a campout. The weather was perfect and the view was stunning.

Aren't we lucky to live here? Some people on Saipan don't realize what we have. For some of the kids, this was their first trip to Managaha. It was also the first time camping for a few.

After the sun set we got the fire roaring again so that we could make s'mores. Bree had to go to three different stores before she found any marshmallows. We told the kids that they could have as many as they wanted, as long as they didn't throw up.

Then, of course, no camping trip would be complete without a giant teddy bear and a ukulele:

The kids did some learning, too. We had an activity where we looked for zooplankton and phytoplankton and we talked about the shearwaters (a bird species) that nest on Managaha. In my opinion, though, the best lesson the kids learned is how much fun and how beautiful places like Managaha can be. I mentioned before that some of the kids were visiting Managaha for the first time. How else can we get kids to be interested in protected places if we don't get them to visit protected places?

Although I hope that these kids remember the difference between phytoplankton and zooplankton and why both are important, I think it is more important that these kids take home a love for the outdoors, camping, snorkeling, Managaha, Saipan, and the CNMI. One day these kids are going to join the military or go off to college, they'll be in Baghdad or Los Angeles, and they're going to remember the island where they were born...then they'll really appreciate what we have.

One day they'll return and they'll understand the importance of protecting our Natural Resources. They'll want Saipan to stay Saipan and not become Guam or Oahu.

(steps off soapbox)

Or at least they'll remember how much fun it was getting buried in the sand:

Bree wrote about the weeklong camp on her blog, Land of the Ayuyu.

Mylene also wrote about our trip to American Memorial Park and to Managaha. Hope also wrote about Managaha. Sami hasn't written anything about the camp. Come on, Sami, start writing!