The Syracuse University and SUNY ESF Chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) traveled to Honduras over the 2005-2006 winter break. Their project combined trail reconstruction with mapping in Pico Bonito National Park. Covering 100,000 hectares of unique ecosystems, Pico Bonito National Park is the second largest national park in Honduras. Much of this area is covered by densely covered forest. These forests combine with the rough natural landscape to be home to amazing waterfalls, wildlife species and multiple ecosystems.
The Rio Cangrejal is the river that forms the eastern side of the park as well as where we stayed for the duration. Pepe Herrero is a popular businessman, political figure and environmentalist in Honduras who has been know for helping organizations that study in the park. He has also been kind enough to lend the EWB his river house which lies on the Rio Cangrejal and 30 minutes outside on La Ceiba. The road that goes up to the river house and beyond was washed out from hurricane Mitch in 1998. You can still see remnants from how amazingly high the river water flowed during the hurricane.
Pico Bonito has been threatened by low funds, illegal logging and questionable farming techniques. The rivers have bee proposed to be damned for electricity and there have been land claim issues arising in the park as well. Since Eco-tourism has been believed to increase the number of jobs and income to the local communities, it has become the focus of many efforts to maintain the integrity of the preserve. There are many programs in place to help the park:
FUPNAPIB, Fundacion Parque Nacional Pico Bonito is a NGO whose mission is to protect the biodiversity of Pico Bonito National Park and improve the living conditions for the people who live in the surrounding areas. They are implementing participatory programs with the goals of protection, community development, agro forestry, forest management, ecotourism, women’s role in river management, and research.
REDHES is also a NGO that combines five north coast conservation organizations. REDHES works on a similar goal as FUPNAPIB and they often work along with each other in the areas that we have been working.
There is also a USAID program that is designed specifically to help the economy of Honduras by increasing tourism. This program is Manejo Integrado de Recursos Naturales or MIRA which translates to Honduras Integrated Natural Resource Management
There are also tourist guide services that have shown to help out a lot.
GUARUMA is a local guide service that is located in the same area as Cabanas del Bosque which has been funded mostly through grants. They are located up the road from Pepe’s river house in Las Mangas. Anna Richter is a member of the peace corp who has been working with GUARUMA and other locals to create Cabanas del Bosque. Many of the same people who helped us work on the trails are the ones who built the cabins and small restaurant that now are located here in Las Mangas. The workers who spent time building have earned shares and now manage this guide service.
Other tourist businesses are Omega Tours, Jungle River and Expatriates.
In EWB’s time working with these organizations, we must work alongside them all and also with the local people and existing tourist operations to create an ecological area that everyone can enjoy without unnecessary disruption. Pico Bonito National Park is a large area and we hope continue relations between SU/ESF EWB and FUPNAPIB, REDHES, MIRA and the locals strong enough to continue the project for many years.