As a Resource Assistant Program intern, I am collaborating with the Urban and Community Forestry (UCF) Program’s Technology and Science Delivery (TSD) Team to develop the Spanish section of the website, Vibrant Cities Lab (VCL). The Urban and Community Forestry Program in partnership with American Forests created Vibrant Cities Lab as an urban forestry information hub that includes an urban forestry toolkit, case studies, guides, and educational resources. My goal with VCL is to have the Spanish section of the website completely developed by the end of the internship to empower Hispanic communities across the US with urban forestry information to manage their urban and community forests and trees and provide a space in our website for our culture and first language to showcase their leadership and that urban areas are melting pots of different cultures.
This month, I had the opportunity to visit, along with my mentor Maya Quiñones (UCF Program Manager at International Institute of Tropical Forestry) and my peer and RAP intern Felisha Felix, two community based non-profit organizations in the southwest of Puerto Rico that partner with the program: Caribbean Regenerative Community Development Inc. and Protectores de Cuencas [Watershed Protectors].
Caribbean Regenerative Community Development Inc. is working in partnership with U.S. Forest Service and the organization Proyecto Agro Eco Turístico del Barrio Río Hondo [Barrio Río Hondo’s Agro and Eco Tourism Project] to plant 1,700 fruit trees and native trees in the Bosque Comunitario de Río Hondo [Community Forest of Río Hondo] to further reforestation, food security, forest recreation, and human health in the disadvantaged community surrounding the forest and the public. During this visit, I met the leader of the project, Mariana Quiñones Rosado, and her team members. Together with their community, they have already planted coffee, cacao, avocado, breadfruit, among other species, cleared out trails, and planned out workshops to engage the community in this project and with the overall benefits of the forest.
Protectores de Cuencas focuses in restoring and protecting watersheds as well as their associated ecosystems. Here, we met with Project Coordination Consultants Ashley Mariani Ríos and Norman Maldonado Benítez who gave us a tour of the nursery where they have grown thousands of trees with community workers and other collaborators. In partnership with the U.S. Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program, they plant and distribute trees that have grown strong enough to endure in forests and farms island wide.
I wanted to highlight these community-based projects because I want them to become part of the case studies in Vibrant Cities Lab. To start, I will be reaching out to these leaders so they can write their story. I am excited to see what they write and support them in their process by editing and publishing it on the VCL platform. I aim to connect with more Hispanic led projects in urban forestry and support them in sharing their success, lessons, methods, and future initiatives.