January trip focused on forming a sister park relationship—
Bob and Jeanne Walz and Dan and Nancy DeWan got to miss a portion of Minnesota’s extra-frigid winter this year when they traveled to Costa Rica Jan. 9-19.
Costa Rica is undoubtedly a great place to escape weeks of subzero temperatures, but this trip was not simply a vacation for the Walzes and DeWans.
The two North Branch couples were part of a group of 10 Rotarians from clubs around the Twin Cities, east central Minnesota and western Wisconsin who were invited through the club to take part in the trip.
The focus of the excursion was to learn about how Costa Ricans manage their parks systems and establish a sister park relationship between a group of Minnesota state parks and parks in Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula.
The Osa Peninsula is where the Rotarians spent much of their time during the trip.
“The Osa Peninsula is one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world, and parts of it are only accessible by boat,” Bob Walz said. “There are seven national parks in this area.”
Walz explained Costa Ricans are good stewards of their land, and about 25 percent of the country’s revenue comes from eco tourism.
He noted the United States could certainly learn from Costa Ricans about how manage and advertise their natural resources, which could lead to attracting more visitors and potentially drive up tourism revenue.
“It would be very helpful for us to promote good ecological habits,” Dan DeWan said.
Walz said another focus of the trip was to band and monitor neotropic birds, which are migratory birds that split their time between Costa Rica and Minnesota.
“We want to help those neotropic birds survive,” Walz said.
DeWan, an avid birder, said there wasn’t time to do much birding during this trip, but he and his wife had to been to Costa Rica on a previous occasion, and they got to see an ample array of avian creatures.
He said it’s not uncommon to quickly spot 30 species of birds in one area.
Returning the favor
Both Walz and DeWan said their Costa Rican hosts were overwhelmingly accommodating, and they showed the Rotarians some of the best natural features the country has to offer, which included the Poas Volcano.
“The Poas Volcano is normally in the clouds, and when my wife and I went to Costa Rica on our first trip, we didn’t get to see it,” DeWan said.
But this time was different. When the Rotarians, lead by their Costa Rican guides, neared the volcano, it was covered in clouds, but the white mist soon parted, and the group got to see the volcano and expansive vistas of the Costa Rican countryside.
There aren’t any volcanoes in Minnesota, but the Rotarians are hoping to show the Costa Ricans some natural wonders when a contingent of them come to the state in the latter part of the summer as a means to solidify the sister park relationship.
Walz said the Rotarians plan to bring the Costa Ricans to Interstate and Wild River state parks, and they’ll also treat their guests to other activities, such as wine tastings at the area’s local wineries, cheese making at Eichten’s in Center City and bringing them to the Indian Museum in Mille Lacs.
Lastly, Walz said the Rotarians plan to approach the Costa Ricans about forming a vocational training team, which is like a group study exchange.
“The idea, basically, and our hope is that we would form a vocational training team, a group of park professionals from here that would go down to Costa Rica and spend minimally a month in Costa Rica and work in their parks and learn their approach,” Walz said. “Then they would send a like number of people up to our parks, and they will work in our parks, and they’ll learn how we manage our parks system.”