A lush ecosystem thrives on either side of Mexico’s San Miguel River, feeding into a beach that surfers cherish.
“The sand is really critical for bringing a wave dynamic that’s been legendary for generations in the northern part of Baja,” says Nick Mucha, programs director for Save the Waves, a nonprofit based in Santa Cruz.
Companies there have been illegally sand mining along the coast and dumping into the pristine river, prompting Save the Waves to lead a charge to create the Arroyo San Miguel State Park, which would be the first state park in Baja.
“It’s really impactful to an area that doesn’t have protections,” Mucha says, “and the creek provides drinking water to 400 local residents.”
Mucha has been working with locals and government officials to see the process through. If approved in the coming months, the state park will protect 140 acres, providing hiking trails, biking trails and picnic areas—something locals are eager to see. “It provides a needed green space,” Mucha says.
The approach mirrors one that Save the Waves uses around the world, including in Santa Cruz, where the nonprofit has worked with city engineers to cut bacteria by 50 percent at Cowell Beach last summer, compared to the previous year. In Huanchaco, Peru, Mucha and his colleagues are working with residents to see what locals want from their newly protected surfing reserve there—something the nonprofit helped establish.
On the west coast of Ireland, Save the Waves worked alongside locals to fight an attempt from none other than Trump International Golf Links to build a seawall, garnering coverage from the New York Times and the Washington Post along the way. The organization secured more than 1,000 signatures opposing Trump’s initial proposal, and has turned in more than 700 letters opposing a newer, scaled-back version that Mucha says would be devastating nonetheless.
“Building any structure on the beach will make a huge disruption to that system—not only would it be detrimental to the surfing community, but to the ecological community as well,” he says. “There’s a lot of evidence that those seawalls narrow the beach in the short term. Why would anyone want to makes their beach disappear, just for a golf course?”