3 trails across a century-old refo haven

THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7 plans to open the Osmeña Reforestation Project in Barangay Camp 7, Minglanilla to eco-tourism ventures.

During the opening of this year’s Environment Month in the reforestation project site yesterday, Dr. Isabelo Montejo, DENR 7 director, said the agency is looking into its tourism potential.

The Osmeña Reforestation Project, which turned 100 years old yesterday, was considered the first reforestation project in the country.

During the Kapihan sa PIA held at the project site, Montejo said that through the efforts of the department’s Biodiversity, Coastal, Wetlands and Ecotourism Research Center (BCWERC), the agency has come up with visitors’ activities within the site.

These will include the Nature Appreciation Tour and Upland Reforestation Educational Walk, which features three trails of varying degrees of difficulty.

The first trail that BCWERC has identified for visitors is the Kiddie Trail, a 240-meter walk. Guides will discuss with visitors the importance of trees and teach them how seedlings are nurtured in the project site’s clonal nursery.

The second trail, the EcoDiscovery and Heritage Trail, will cover 1.3 kilometers. On this trail, participants will get to know the history of the Osmeña Reforestation Project and hear about the dynamics of the forest ecosystem.

The third trail, the Ecstasy Trail, is a 1.2-kilometer trail that will include a brief visit to two out of seven caves located within the project site.

Minglanilla Mayor Elanito Peña, one of the guests during yesterday’s activities, said he plans to include the ORP in their town’s ecotourism program.

Cebu Gov. Hilario “Junjun” Davide III admitted it was the first time he visited the project site and he wants it included in the regular tours being offered during the Suroy-Suroy Sugbo. Established in 1916, the Osmeña Reforestation Project used to be known as the Talisay-Minglanilla Reforestation Project. It was initiated through the efforts of the late President Sergio Osmeña Sr., who, as Senate president, passed a law that set aside P10,000 for the project.

President Manuel L. Quezon renamed the site and proclaimed it as a forest reserve back in 1937.

Covering about 2,710 hectares, the project site has hosted research work on the introduction and trial planting of potential reforestation species, which set the foundation for more extensive reforestation efforts in the country.

During the Second World War, the site was reportedly used by the Japanese Imperial Army as one of its garrison areas.

Montejo, however, said that while the project site has withstood the test of time, it also encountered various problems.

Persistent poaching, illegal tree-cutting and slash-and-burn farming continue to plague the site, he said.

To increase awareness of the reforestation project, DENR 7 initiated various community-based reforestation and agro-forestry programs to allow surrounding communities to become part of the project.

Montejo said that they established such programs because they found out that poverty often drove farmers to take advantage of the reforestation project site’s resources.

“If we will not address human development, then we might as well forget about the environment,” Montejo added.

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