Urban Coastal Reserve: the gateway to conservation

By South Environment Association

“Reserva Costera Urbana, the reserve of the city. Río Gallegos, where the adventure of getting to know Southern Patagonia begins ”. This is how one of the first brochures announced on its cover, a triptych produced by the Municipal Environmental Agency of Río Gallegos shortly after the sanction and promulgation of ordinance No. 5356, making citizens aware of the richness of native flora and fauna and the ecosystem benefits that this protected site located within the municipal ejido provided to the community.

On September 16, 2004, the city councilors unanimously sanctioned ordinance No. 5356 that created an Urban Nature Reserve (RNU) in Río Gallegos, called Urban Coastal Reserve (RCU), comprising two sectors: one for recreational, tourist and educational use on the Gallegos river and another on the Chico river.

The RCU was the first of its kind in the region to protect the marshes adjacent to the city. The previous process that gave rise to this unprecedented event in Río Gallegos and the characteristics it adopted from its formation and subsequent management, was pioneering in many aspects.

In the first place, it was a collective achievement since different institutions and people interested in protecting the environment came together, who made their contribution to achieve the necessary consensus for its creation. Professionals from the UNPA-UARG who carried out a solid research work on the biodiversity of birds that the Gallegos river estuary housed, the Environmental Agency Municipal and professionals from other areas and teachers, interested in promoting the conservation of shorebirds and their habitats.

In the historical line of the development of the protection of sites that conserve the original nature within the local urban ejido, this action and decision-making regarding the management of the area always operated in an inter-institutional way, with a fundamental addition that is in its genesis: the citizen participation.

In this regard, Decree No. 3478/06 that regulated the ordinance stated: “respecting the spirit of the norm (…) it is intended to enshrine the principle of decentralization of the decision-making process, involving the main stakeholders in the planning and management of the protected area ”. And he continues: “That is why (…) It is based on the premise that community participation in planning and managing resources can redouble the effectiveness of conservation measures and help the residents of the city benefit from it ”.

The first workshop for the elaboration of the Management Plan for the Urban Coastal Reserve and the Provincial Reserve of Migratory Birds, created in 2001, was held in December 2006 with the participation of governmental and non-governmental organizations: Municipality of Río Gallegos and Provincial Agrarian Council, Enforcement Authorities of the two protected jurisdictions that make up the Gallegos river estuary ecosystem, the UNPA-UARG and the Fundación Patagonia Natural.

The preparation of the Management Plan, the environmental education and awareness campaigns towards this environment, reinforced with actions and projects arising from the confluence of many of the initial actors in the South Environment Association, created in 2007, continued over time to strengthen the commitment and pride of the community regarding the care and preservation of the site and its enhancement. Ambiente Sur contributed by providing resources for infrastructure, environmental education, awareness campaigns, training, technical assistance, human resources, placement of interpretive posters, construction of a shelter for municipal conservation agents in the Río Chico sector, among other actions with the who supported the preservation of the Reserve.

In 2011, with the synergy of the Municipality, the UNPA-UARG and the Association, the “Estuario del Río Gallegos” Environmental Interpretation Center was built, through which thousands of visitors have passed.

17 years after the creation of the RCU, it has been possible through inter-institutional work and neighborhood groups, to stop the process of affectation by anthropic use of the marshes and tidal flats that make up this ecosystem. The reversal of this process of environmental deterioration goes hand in hand with a change in the consciousness of the local population, which went from the denial and ignorance of the value of this environment to considering it as a space of its own and characteristic of the city of Río Gallegos.

Ordinance No. 5356. was the immediate precedent of the subsequent Public Hearing, held in 2007 and the first in the city of Río Gallegos, where the implementation of a System of Urban Nature Reserves, which included the Gallegos river estuary and other lagoons and natural spaces of the city, an initiative that was later ratified by another municipal ordinance in 2009.

Likewise, we consider it necessary to highlight the importance that the Coastal Reserve acquired in the pandemic context that we as a community have gone through, offering well-cared spaces for outdoor recreation and contact with nature, strengthening social ties in a healthy environment.

A logo for the Reserve

After the sanction of the ordinance, the Diffusion Program “The Reserve goes to the school and to the neighborhoods” was created. One of the participatory initiatives of this Program was the children’s drawing contest launched in 2006 to create a logo that identifies it. Through work in schools, 81 children presented their work, being Mia Beecher Bull the winner.

Mía Beecher Bull was the winner in 2006 of the children’s drawing contest to create the logo of the Urban Coastal Reserve.

Mía is 23 years old, she studies architecture at the UBA and she still remembers with joy those moments, when at the age of 6 she traveled through the Reserve with her mother observing and photographing birds, which made her enthusiastic to participate in the contest and draw her drawing. He chose a seacoat. “As a little girl,” she relates now, “I was happy with this. My family usually send me photos of the posters of the Reserve with the logo. It was always something that made me proud and I like to tell. With the binoculars that I won, I have gone out to observe birds ”.

As we said and by way of synthesis, many pioneering processes in the matter of conservation began in the Urban Coastal Reserve of Río Gallegos, which have later been replicated in other RNUs of the Province and the region, resulting in benefits for the environment of the cities and for the people who live in it.

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