Connecting people and the Apostle Islands to Costa Rican parks

Crossing the outlet of the Madrigal River in Corcovado National Park

April 30, 2023

10 Bayfield area volunteers, including Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore board members Neil Howk and Mark Peterson, recently left snowy Wisconsin to complete two weeks of conservation work on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula, under an agreement between Lake Superior’s national parks and Costa Rica’s National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC).

Mark and Neil leave snowy Wisconsin for Costa Rica

The parks are linked by migratory birds that winter in Costa Rica and breed in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and other parks around Lake Superior. The agreement signed in 2013 encourages both institutions to work for the benefit of both parks and protected areas.

“This agreement looks to promote the development of education programs, encourage local community participation, as well as the creation of a communication network between parks with emphasis on migratory birds, habitat restoration and aquatic resources,” said SINAC Executive Director Rafael Gutiérrez.

The volunteers spent one week working to develop an interpretive trail in the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve. Activities included building a bridge across a ravine, clearing trail and painting signs. A second week of activities were adjacent to Corcovado National Park re-routing trail, creating water bars to stem trail erosion, removing shoreline plastics that can hinder sea turtle nesting, and gardening in a plant nursery. All work was under the direction of local non-profit conservation groups.

Costa Rica trail bridge building
Mark, Fred Clark, Adrian Wydevan, and Sarah Boles removing trash from sea turtle nesting areas on Piro Beach
Mark climbing up the wildlife viewing tower into the forest canopy at the Piro Biological Station
Costa Rican ocean view
Neil removes rotted bridge segments from a Costa Rican stream bed
Bayfield area volunteers take a break for a group photo
Costa Rican monkeys
Yellow-throated toucans in Costa Rica

Building trails and relationships in Costa Rica – Click to enlarge

13 US national parks in and near Lake Superior are included in the agreement, including Apostle Islands, Isle Royale, and Pictured Rocks. Seven parks and protected areas in southwestern Costa Rica on the Osa Peninsula are targeted for exchange activities. It is hoped that the exchange will work both ways, and that Costa Rican park officials can visit places like the Apostle Islands to discuss their park protection strategies.

I’ve wanted to visit the Osa Peninsula since I learned about its park areas from Costa Rican park rangers visiting the Apostle Islands in 2016.

Neil Howk

Retired Apostle Islands interpretive ranger, Friends board member

The tayra (pronounced tie-rah) is an omnivorous animal from the weasel family

The tayra (pronounced tai-rah) is an omnivorous animal from the weasel family

Another outgrowth of this agreement, JaguarOsa, is the work of Northland College wildlife professor Dr. Erik Olson. JaguarOsa aims to help conserve wildlife including jaguars, peccaries, tapirs, monkeys, and pumas, in and around the protected areas of the Osa Peninsula. JaguarOsa was founded in 2015 and has been collecting scientific data ever since. This long-term, collaborative monitoring effort is critical to the conservation efforts of the region.

“Our volunteer effort was an experiment of sorts, to see if there is local interest to provide tools and labor for advancing conservation and ecotourism efforts with local people on the Osa Peninsula,” said Mark Peterson. “We hope to offer this work experience periodically to those able and interested – sort of a Habitat for Humanity aimed at conservation.”

Costa Rican waterfall
Costa Rica trail building
Sign at Costa Rica Corcovado National Park

Thanks to Mark Peterson for the story, to Mark and Neil for the photos and to the entire group for your efforts in Costa Rica.

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