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Getting My Hands Dirty

Once I became a property owner in Honduras, my vacations there took a turn from 100 percent relaxation to an ever-changing mix of hammock time and getting dirt under my nails.

One of the most rewarding projects, however, had only a little to do with my property and more to do with the island habitat. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch stalled over Guanaja for three days, killing people, destroying homes and devastating some of the great red mangrove forests that serve as buffers from the sea. Some of the mangroves have recovered, but in other areas, dead roots and branches stick up from the shallow water like bleached bones.

On my first trip to Guanaja, I kayaked through extensive mangrove tunnels right in front of the beach where I am now building my island home. Mitch completely destroyed those tunnels.

Some island friends, like Ray Powery, have planted mangrove seedlings (called propagules) in areas that were once great mangrove forests. Ray estimates that he’s planted 100,000 such seedlings in the past year. On one of our recent trips, Doug and I planted more than 3,000 red mangrove pods along the northeast coast of the island—including the area in front of our property. When I returned months later, I could see that many of them were sprouting.

Planting the propagules from our kayaks were incredibly easy, and we’ll certainly keep doing it until the area returns to its pre-Mitch beauty. More than pretty landscaping, mangroves are essential to island ecosystems, a topic I discussed in an article I wrote for Tonic (“DIY Paradise Preservation”) about our planting project. Now, every time I return, I take photos of the progress of those little seedlings.

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