Happy and excited community and friends of Peleliu State gathered on Friday, June 3rd to celebrate the opening of improvements to jungle trails at the MVP Forest of Hope. Along the trail are 13 interpretive signs that highlight connections between animal and plant biodiversity, ecosystems, and cultural heritage.
In a unique first for Palau, the signs highlight traditional uses and cultural importance of individual species found along the trail. The trail also features safety features, installed using best practices to minimize impact, to keep visitors safe on the pristine but rough limestone surface. The trail circles the peak at Bloody Nose Ridge, and is lined with historical artifacts, cultural sites, and hundreds of endemic, native, and endangered species.
The project was accomplished through a partnership created through the Palau Biodiversity Project (GEF6), based at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and the Environment (MAFE). A quick trailside ceremony and ribbon-cutting acknowledged the many partners who contributed to the project.
Governor Roberts welcomed visitors and the Peleliu community, and noted that this small eco-tourism project was already leading to larger biodiversity-friendly food security initiatives. Minister Ngirai Tmetuchel of the Ministry of Human Resources, Culture, Tourism, and Development (MHRCTD) spoke on behalf of the National Government. “This is an excellent symbol of the connection of private and public efforts for the mutual benefit of all,” he said.
Landowner Sandra Pierantozzi told the story of how the MVP Forest of Hope came to be protected, when she and her husband, Marcello Pierantozzi, agreed to lease the land to the Palau Conservation Society as a perpetual “Private Land in Conservation.” Peleliu Planning Team member Ponsiana Sambal described the year+ of work that went into clearing and improving the trail and creating the signs. Planning Team members are volunteers who gave days of their time to the project. “All of that work was worth it to see this success,” she said. Acting Director Leena Mesebeluu of the Bureau of Environment at MAFE formally acknowledged the 15+ partners who were involved. Peleliu Legislature Floor Leader Umedib Ridep closed the ceremony by noting that the trail is now an educational and cultural resources for teachers and youth, and invited everyone to explore the many sites Peleliu has to offer.
Finally, policymakers, technical and cultural partners, educators, the planning team, and friends flanked the Pierantozzi family for a ribbon-cutting. Visitors then explored the trail and studied the interpretive signs before enjoying a #KeledANgercheled lunch featuring local Peleliu delicacies!
The MVP Forest of Hope is a Private Land in Conservation. The Leaseholder is the Palau Conservation Society. Accessibility improvements to the trail and interpretive signs were accomplished through the Palau Biodiversity Project (GEF6) in partnership with Peleliu State and Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and the Environment (MAFE), with the additional partnership of Palau Conservation Society (PCS) and Palau Automated Land and Resource Information System (PALARIS). Additional assistance was provided by Belau National Museum (BNM), Bureau of Cultural and Historical Preservation (BCHP), Aimeliik State, Bureau of Tourism (BOT), and Palau Visitors Authority (PVA). Original artwork was by Elsei Tellei. Financial Support was provided by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and by Volunteers from the State of Peleliu. The trail had earlier been cleared of unexploded ordinances with the assistance of the Australian Government. The State of Peleliu looks forward to welcoming you to Peleliu to explore this new cultural, environmental, and spiritual resource!