Located near Island Girl Power in Dededo, lies 10 acres of secondary limestone forest, surrounded by neighboring homes, a ponding basin and two schools–Maria A. Uloa Elementary School and Vincente S.A. Benavente Middle School–is the Sågan Tinanom Dededo Nature Park. The park aims to promote sustainability through cultivation and education.
“We’re passionate about being a place where people can connect with both the land and the culture that is deeply tied to it,” said Vince Pool, park manager at Sågan Tinanom.
The project initiative started in July of 2016. Since then, it has hosted over 400 volunteers. Volunteers range from teens to adults and meet regularly on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m..
“Sågan Tinanom” translated into English from CHamoru means “Place of Plants”
The lot was originally assigned for housing additional school staff in the 1960’s. However, those plans never came to fruition. Instead the land has been re-designated as a neighborhood park that would also include a football field.
Sågan Tinanom first started as a project in the Friends of the Parks Guam program under Island Girl Power. The intention was to revitalize the land that had been neglected and overgrown for over 50 years.
The park is dedicated to being a safe environment where classrooms and community members can physically connect with nature and actively learn and practice sustainability.
“When students come to Sågan Tinanom, one of the first things that we talk to them about are the meanings of those words—indigenous, endemic, introduced, and invasive,” explained Pool.
The limestone forest is full of invasive plants and trees such as Spathodea campanulata, African tulip as well as indigenous and endemic plant life. Students can learn the importance of eradicating invasive plants and preserving endemic and indigenous species.
They also learn of historic and cultural uses of the plants and trees such as making åmot, scavenging for food, building materials and jewelry making.
“We’re also committed to supporting self-sustainability on Guåhan through diversity and food-security by developing a portion of the Nature Park into the Sågan Tinanom Fruit Forest,” said Pool.
The nature park is currently underway of creating their first 30 feet by 30 feet “plant focus areas” and finalizing the permit for its Fruit Forest.
The plant focus areas will be used to grow and teach on specific different groups of native plants, while the fruit forest will be used to grow vegetation including non-native fruit trees that are capable of growing in tropical climate such as acai, tamarillo, jaboticaba, abiu, black saptote, plantains and others.
According to Pool, these small steps can help decrease our dependence on imported produce and raise sustainability through conservation.
Several school clubs, sports teams, and community organizations and agencies have been involved with Sågan Tinanom during its founding year.
“We’ve been extremely blessed to have so many volunteers since beginning our very first days with one or two people and a couple of machetes,” Pool said. “It’s been great working with the various government agencies that are supporting our efforts. Many of them have come out, walked through the trails, gotten to know more about what we’re doing first hand, and we’ve heard more and more that a place like Sågan Tinanom is needed.“
Sågan Tinanom recently hosted their first Indigenous Art Workshops where young women had the opportunity to make jewelry out of spondylus.
According to Sågan Tinanom’s instagram page, “For most of the girls, this was their first time ever using a dremel and it was so exciting to see their designs take shape,”
Sågan Tinanom plans to host more free workshops connecting the community with carvers, weavers, and herbal healers within the upcoming months.
If you would like to partner with Sagan Tinanom you can contact them on their Facebook page at Sågan Tinanom / Dededo Nature Park or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of Vince Pool