There’s a tree over in Playa Pelada. Of course, there are many trees, but there is one in particular that I planted and noted on my phone with a pin its location. Adorned with a little bow of palm frond, hoping to gain root in the sandy soil and grow into a part of the system that stabilizes the beach, makes homes for wildlife, sucks in CO2, and breaths out oxygen for all of us to share.
I spent the day with a group called Costas Verdes planting trees around Playa Pelada along with a group of kids from a local school. Of course, there was the requisite chaos of having fifty kids to manage along with the indifferent teachers. I stood back and watched as the guide educated us on how to plant and why it is important, talking about the various species and the importance of avoiding a monoculture area.
It was early and already hot this July morning in Costa Rica, the jungle already steaming, the crashing ocean just a few meters away beckoning. Every other morning I would have just walked to the beach with my board for a surf, but today was a day to volunteer, to contribute, to learn, and to get my hands dirty. The dip into the refreshing Pacific would have to wait, to be earned.
We planted hundreds of trees that day, guided through a system of adding water-holding gel and just enough soil to allow roots to take hold in the sand. We staked the trees for support from the relentless winds and tied them with a little palm frond.
Elsewhere in the area, Costas Verdes had the professional staff replanting a huge area of land that had been cleared by developers so that their condos could have ‘Ocean View’ on the marketing material. Now they were supporting Costas Verdes so that they could say ‘We Plant Trees!’. They were getting it both ways. Eventually, the barren strip of land in front of the development would grow back, but why they hadn’t built a beautiful, shady path that would be full of life from crabs and birds to monkeys, is beyond me.
It was blazing hot, as it tends to be in the tropics. The best thing these developers could have offered is a cool, shaded, natural jungle path that opened up to the breathtaking blue ocean, yet their instinct was to tear down, to destroy. It was ugly, hot, dead. And you still couldn’t see anything from the condos. Just a poorly planned marketing scam that hundreds of hours of labor and decades of natural processes were going to have to work to restore.
I spent this morning just doing a little part to help and learn more. Costas Verdes organizes volunteers but relies on a full-time team to really get things done. Regardless, it is a great way to learn and contribute while getting a little dose of reality when it comes to human impact on the jungle. While I was traveling solo on this trip that would take me from the top of Costa Rica to the bottom, from Nosara to Pavones, and back, the next time I am here having a family surf trip in Costa Rica I’ll be sure to join Costas Verdes again with my kids, to let them have this experience of getting their hands dirty and making a positive impact on a place they love.
Maybe they can also pin a tree and come back to visit it for years to come, urging it on to survive, grow, and anchor its roots in this magical place.