Students spend last days of summer improving Chile’s parks

Two hundred seventy civil engineering students from Universidad Católica donated their time to help out at three parks near Santiago and Valparaíso.

While many Chileans concluded their summer by enjoying Chile’s beautiful beaches, hundreds of generous Universidad Católica (UC) students used their last free weekend of the season to lend a helping hand to various national parks.

The 270 freshmen of Universidad Católica’s civil engineering program worked in three protected areas of Chile near Santiago and Valparaiso, including La Reserva Nacional Río Clarillo, Reserva Nacional Lago Peñuelas, and Parque Nacional La Campana.

Volunteers donated their time to improve trails and camping areas, build gazebos and seating areas, and design and install signage. For first-time volunteer Valentina Suarez, 21, the experience was new and meaningful.

«It was a nice opportunity, as I had never participated in work like this before. Since it was labor directed at serving the country in an anonymous way, it had a special value,” said Suarez. “It has significant meaning, since caring for nature is always important, and what’s most significant is that you don’t expect anything in return.»

The volunteer trip was coordinated by UC’s Alumni Center and its Welcome Week for new students of the university, in conjunction with the Chilean government’s Vive Tus Parques, or Live Your Parks program.

Vive Tus Parques is a new cooperative initiative between INJUV, Chile’s Ministry of Social Development, and CONAF, Chile’s National Forest Corporation. The program organizes volunteers to help improve the infrastructure of Chile’s public parks, and has previously executed successful projects in Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, Parque Nacional La Campana near Valparaíso, and Reserva Nacional Nonguén in the Biobío Region.

Students are especially important partners in Chile’s conservation efforts, according to CONAF’s Protected Areas Manager Eduardo Katz, because they provide new energy and ideas.

«University involvement in this work and their involvement in the development of national parks and reserves is very valuable to us, because their contributions give us a new, renewed, fresh look on how to face the conservation and natural resource challenges of our country,” said Katz. “They also have the opportunity to pass on this experience to future generations.»