For those spending more than a few days in Mexico
City, an outing to the nearby Ajusco mountains is an obligatory
and rewarding trek.
Despite its urbanization, large parts of Mexico City and the
surrounding valley are still rural areas, where the local people
have not lost their connection to nature, nor their desire to
share this blessing with their urban neighbors.
PARQUE SAN NICOLAS
San Nicolas opened in the beginning of 1998. It's used by 1,600
visitors a week - almost half by cyclists who use the well-made
trails to explore and race through the mountain passes. In preparation
for a better management of the tourists, guides have been trained
and workshops offered, taking into account medical needs and public
Guides identify the native plants, which transform the forest
into a combination pharmacy and multi-purpose tienda. On a recent
trip, the guide pointed out the perlilla plant (used for making
traditional brooms) and the sauco tree, the flowers of which are
used in tea to relieve coughing.
The ejido has established areas for camping as well as easier
trails for the elderly and children. Wisely, they want to make sure
the hiking and biking trails are clearly defined. It's no fun to
dodge slow-moving hikers if you're on two wheels and it's worse
being hit by a fast-moving mountain bike if you're on foot.
A BRIEF HISTORY
In promoting environment-based tourism, the 2,340 hectare ejido
of San Nicolás is also redefining how it wants to conserve
its natural resources. A pre-hispanic settlement, San Nicolás
was founded in the Spanish era in 1535. The ejido was officially
declared in 1924 and expanded fourteen years later in 1936.
The ejidatarios' primary income comes form the cultivation of
agricultural crops - corn, wheat, beans, peas, potatoes and a variety
of other vegetables and fruit. Some of the land is used for ranching.
About 80 percent of the forest is covered in a mix of pine and oak
forests, with a scattering of ocote and oyamel trees. Approximately
two million trees have been planted in the past twenty years.
The 340 families on the ejido are hoping that ecotourism can help
pay some of the bills. This pilot project formally debuted in the
beginning of 1998. It is one of the first working examples in Mexico
of tourism connecting with local economic and environmental development.