Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Holiday cleanup shows Pagat some love

Holiday cleanup shows Pagat some love

By Amritha Alladi • Pacific Daily News • February 15, 2010

They could have been at home enjoying breakfast in bed with their sweethearts.

Instead, they came bearing trash bags to show some love for their island.
The Guam Boonie Stompers Association and We Are Guåhan arranged a hike and cleanup of the trail to Pagat Caves yesterday.

According to the two groups, the hike was more than just an opportunity to inform the public on how the area will be affected as a result of the military buildup. It also was a demonstration of the different groups of people who care about their island.

"One of the things I do know is growing up here, every weekend there are a lot of formal hikes organized and which are led, and usually a very specific demographic goes on those," said Desiree Ventura of We Are Guåhan.

"With me and my friends and family, I know that sometimes we just roll down in groups of ones or twos or threes and we don't really get to see the other groups of people who enjoy it," she said. "So there's a big misconception about who's using it, and I thought this was a great opportunity to show that we all value it, and we can all take care of it and work together."

The Pagat caves once were a source of fresh water to ancient Chamorro villages and are now one of the few places on island where residents and tourists may view ancient pottery, lusongs and latte stones dating back over 3,500 years, according to the two organizations.

But access to the caves may soon be limited if the Defense Department places a firing range on part of it -- one of the options outlined in the department's draft Environmental Impact Statement on the military buildup.

That's one of the reasons 45-year-old Roy Geary of Tamuning was out cleaning the trail on his way down to the caves yesterday. He hadn't visited them before but had always wanted to, he said.

"This is kind of like payment for the hike," said Geary, as he stacked wood strewn across the trail into a pickup truck.

Sonny Cruz, 41, of Sinajana said it was his first trip to the caves as well. He hadn't been to the Pagat caves before and wanted to explore them with his kids while he still had a chance.

In response to those who may have said it's too late to be cleaning up the trail now -- just as access is on the cusp of being restricted -- Cruz said he feels the cleanup hike actually demonstrates local residents' desire to keep their natural sites clean and that they do care about it.

"I guess they want to do this to try and clean it up and show that we're trying to take care of this area so that they can keep doing their boonie stomps," he said.
Plus, according to Dave Lotz, a hiker with the Guam Boonie Stompers, this isn't the first time his group has orchestrated a beautification project like this.

"The Guam Boonie Stompers has had an interest in the Pagat Cave area for some time and has been doing regular cleanups on the island," he said.

"We've cleaned up the area, trying to concentrate on the trash in the cave area and also in (the) Chamorro village, but with increased usage and with illegal dumping, we feel we need to make a major community effort to cleaning up the area that goes through one of our major cultural assets on the island," Lotz said. "(It's) certainly received increased attention with the possibility that this could be closed due to the military buildup, and we just want to show that there's community support for this, which is what we're seeing right now on a Sunday morning."

In the meantime, the Guam Preservation Trust is trying to get Pagat on a list of the the country's Most Endangered Historic Properties, a designation program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which could possibly prevent the Defense Department from constructing the firing range there.

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