On November 8, 2003, with the inauguration of the first Environmental Education Center on El Escambrón beach in San Juan, Puerto Rico moved one step closer to having the first officially recognised Blue Flag beach in the Caribbean. The center is one of the main requirements necessary to complete the Education Phase of the international Blue Flag program.
“This center will enable us to meet criteria needed to obtain Blue Flag status by November 2004,” said Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC) Executive Director José M. Suárez. “It`s essential for our beaches to offer the best conditions in cleanliness, safety and services for visitors and locals alike. In addition to the direct benefits of the program, Blue Flag recognition will position us in the international market as an eco-friendly destination.”
As the Foundation for Environmental Education`s official model for the Blue Flag Campaign in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico is regarded as the leader in maintaining the highest quality beach conditions amongst Caribbean destinations. The new Environmental Education Center will provide citizens and tourists with valuable information about beach facilities, guidelines for preservation of natural resources and ecosystems, and updated on progress of the Blue Flag program in Puerto Rico. The center will also post results from water-monitoring tests conducted every 14 days, keeping visitors informed of water conditions for swimming.
Beaches are among Puerto Rico`s most important natural resources and a major recreational attraction for Puerto Ricans and visitors. PRTC already spends over $700,000 annually in daily cleaning of beaches. Since the inception of the Blue Flag program in Puerto Rico, the agency has spent more than $800,000 in additional funds toward building awareness of the program and establishing the infrastructure necessary for its implementation. Development of education centers on Monserrate Beach in Luquillo, Flamenco Beach in Culebra and Balneario de Carolina, will follow soon.
The Blue Flag Campaign, developed in Europe in 1987, is administered by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) based in Denmark and England. FEE administers Blue Flag programs on more than 2,500 beaches and marinas across Europe, and has expanded to South Africa and now the Caribbean. Blue Flag is an internationally recognised symbol of quality for beaches that are well managed and adhere to strict criteria for safety, cleanliness and environmental awareness.
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For further information on the Blue Flag Project visit http://www.blueflag.org