Costa Rica is well known as a leader in environmental policy and for its pledge to be a neutral carbon country by 2021. This ambitious goal requires important challenges to take and the country already implements some action plans to achieve it (transport, land development, economy…).
However, when we arrived in the capital city San José, it looked like lot of other central America big cities: congestion, air & plastic pollution, lot of concrete… As an example of efforts made, there is some trees and green parks in the city center that make citizens daily life enjoyable, but it is very localized and not beneficial to everyone. Moreover, the city is crossed by two rivers: Rio Torres and Maria Aguilar Rivers. Unfortunately these areas, former recreative places, are currently polluted and not valorized. Large amount of garbage and sewage are discharged and led to river contaminations.
In this context, we met Margarita & Adrian from the Rutas Naturbanas foundation. This organization aims to create ecological paths along the two San José’s rivers which has benefits for the human mobility, the water sanitation & the biodiversity.
Rutas Naturbanas foundation is an urban development project to connect people to the city through nature. The goal is to create 25km of shared-use paths along two rivers that allow people to walk, run, cycle to move in the city. This is as an alternative to cars using and a solution to practice sports and recreation in a green area.
The project has multiple purposes: health benefits by providing enjoyable paths to move, ecological benefits by implementing forests and restoring biodiversity, environmental benefits from trees like temperature decreasing & air purification. The economic benefits could be also consequent by the potential activity of shops and recreation business with profits around 100M$ from tourists and locals. The social benefits, by providing friendly space, could also reconnect local communities around this project. Besides, those 25 km surround the capital city and connect it to 4 municipalities. This led to the linking of many important locations as more than 100 schools, government head office, universities…
In 2016, Rutas Naturbanas foundation and its initiative were declared National Interest by the Government of Costa Rica.
The initiative Rutas Naturbanas involves actors from various fields of study: urban development experts, designers, ecologists, engineers, business developer… It is a multidisciplinary and collective project that create a synergy between 5 civil society organizations and 2 micro-companies: Friend of the Torres River, Urban River, Chepecletas, Magical Trees, Cultural GAM, SUM Consulting, PPAR Design.
Rutas Naturbanas project was launched in 2015 with the designing of a master plan, the project & the foundation were recognized as public interest in 2016 and then the donation campaign started. The foundation has just launched its second crowdfunding campaign on the Global Giving website to support the rehabilitation of these unused spaces.
Thanks to donations, they had enough funds at the end of 2017 to launch the construction of the first kilometer along the Rio Torres. Urban plans, vegetation implementation and signing have been set up for the achievement of the kilometer.
WHAT NOW ?
Rutas Naturbanas is a good example of a collective project led by citizens, willing to change their city to improve people quality of life and valorize forgotten spaces. Moreover, the project aims to bring consistency between the country public pledge and local actions, by calling the government & municipalities for their responsibilities in its implementation.
Because of its multidisciplinary aspect, its scale and its cost, the project of Rutas Naturbanas known a run-up for its implementation. Short terms actions are to negotiate, design and build more kilometers, and to increase the community involvement through workshops.
Create a better city for health, environment, mobility, safety and social connection is the aim of this civil society project. It is now supported by different stakeholders as the local & general government, private companies, riverside landowners… Nevertheless, the heart of the project is led by inhabitants who want to make change and to act for it. The commitment of citizens is powerful, even if the concretization of ideas takes time, the involvement of inhabitants can be a game change.