A total of 30 Guanacaste beaches, among 107 in the country, won the emblem of the Ecological Blue Flag program for 2013. Schools, communities, and sustainable homes also won a flag.
This year’s award ceremony changed compared to last. On March 24, the official dedication happened in a hotel in San Jose, and five out of ten categories were scheduled separately, such as beaches, for which the ceremony date was set for March 27 in Playa Matapalo, Guanacaste.
“We have done this for 18 years, and 2014 will be 19, and I can say that this has grown quickly. The Ecological Blue Flag is inclusive for people, and not exclusive. It is motivation for Costa Ricans and everyone who lives in this country, to tener a prize for something that everyone should do – caring for the environment,” said Darner Mora, the program’s director.
This year, 122 beaches participated, but only 107 were awarded the Blue Flag. Of those in Guanacaste, seven belong to the canton of Nicoya, including Samara Sur, Buena Vista, Garza, Guiones, Pelada and Nosara beaches. Some nearby winners included Punta Islita (in Nandayure), Camaronal (Hojancha) and Ostional (Santa Cruz). All were repeat winners, except for Nosara, which was recovering the prize. Guiones, Pelada and Islita won with two stars and the rest only one.
Communities and students allied
The program initially became known among beaches, but now has ten categories of awards for the work done by families, companies and students. In the case of students, the National University (UNA – Universidad Nacional) in Nicoya won the flag for the second consecutive year.
“We had a change in our consciousness. The student community, the professors and administrators, we have all worked. We created what we call the “Ant Group” and there we recycle, manage waste, we care for the water and the environment. We also visit neighborhoods close to the university, giving talks to the residents,” Jose Delgado, a student in the English program at UNA in Nicoya, explained to The Voice.
In the category for communities, Nosara won in many ways. The district earned two stars, as did the community in general and its sustainable homes. In this last round, 20 families registered, and six won (there were 102 winners in the country). Just the same, the Nosara Civic Association was given one star in the category for Protected Natural Spaces.
“We worked on waste management, cleaning the beaches and town; we saved water, electricity and fuel and we treated wastewater. In addition, we are handling waste well, we reforest and we care for planted trees. We educated students on the subject and even cared for animals. We motivated people, and even created a festival to celebrate the flags that we won,” said Jessica Sheffield, coordinator of the Ecological Blue Flag program in Nosara.
The program also rewarded the regional office of the Costa Rican Tourism Institute in Nicoya (the South Guanacaste region), the company Riteve Nicoya and the Hotel Punta Islita, among others, as part of the climate change category.
This year, a total of 2,959 local committees participated in the program’s ten categories, according to the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE). Rene Castro says that’s a surprising number, as when they started the project in 1995, he never thought it would get that large.