San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Beaches Regain Blue Flag Award

Five Pacific beaches that lost the Blue Flag Award in 2004 recently regained the environmental distinction: the Pacific port city of Puntarenas, El Roble de Puntarenas, Santa Teresa de Cóbano, on the tip of the NicoyaPeninsula, and Playa Buena and Tamarindo, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste.

Residents of Tamarindo held a flag-raising ceremony Saturday to celebrate their blue flag, a distinction awarded to communities that promote conservation and sustainable development.

The 2005 awards were presented by President Abel Pacheco last month to 298 of 580 contenders, according to Casa Presidencial.

Pacheco also announced that the distinction, started a decade ago in Costa Rica, will go international this year. The program will be implemented in Panama by request of the Panamanian First Lady, Vivian Fernández, who was present at the awards ceremony Feb. 22.

“I am grateful to Leila (Rodríguez, Costa Rica’s First Lady) for her support since I began my duties as First Lady. From my office, I have developed similar programs to Costa Rica’s programs for handicapped people, and now we will implement this environmental program in a few months,” Fernández said.

Juanita Hayman, head of the Tamarindo Ecological Blue Flag Committee, said the beach community organized groups and recruited volunteers to clean up the beach and raise funds to place 10 garbage cans throughout the popular tourist town last year with the goal of regaining the coveted distinction.

“We made a lot of effort to rescue all that was lost,” she said in a statement.

On Saturday afternoon, Tamarindo environmentalists and residents gathered for an official ceremony to raise the blue flag that will decorate the beach for the rest of the year.Activities included speeches by Hayman and members of the National Ecological Blue Flag Committee, as well as music and environmental games for children.

In contrast to Tamarindo, Flamingo, a neighboring beach town, earned the distinction in 2004 but lost it in 2005 – along with three other Pacific beaches that lost their flag last year (see box).

Eighty-four beaches, 33 non-coastal communities and 463 schools participated in the annual program, which was extended to include schools two years ago.

The program is overseen by a national committee composed of representatives of the Ministry of Public Health, the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT), the National Water and Sewer Institute (AyA), the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE), and the National Chamber of Tourism.

2005 Blue Flag Award

Earned Flag for First Time

• El Carmen de Cóbano, southern Nicoya Peninsula

• Playa Ventanas, inside Las Baulas National Marine Park, Guanacaste

• Playa Mancita, Guanacaste

• Playa Bonita, Guanacaste

• Playa Avellanas, Guanacaste

Had Flag, But Lost It

• Playa Zancudo, near the central Pacific port city of Quepos

• Playa Esterillos, central Pacific coast

• Playa Flamingo, Guanacaste

• Piñuela de Osa, inside BallenaNationalMarinePark, in the country’s Southern Zone


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