“How can a limestone forest come to exist in the middle of an urban setting?”
To understand the work that’s being done in the Nature Park, it’s important to first understand the history of the lands, both in and surrounding Sågan Tinanom, and their transition over the past several decades. Read the timeline below for a brief history of what it has been, and how it came to be what it is today:
Prior to World War II (before 1941), the land existed in a sparsely populated inland area on the northern side of the island. Miles away from what were then the village centers of Machanao and Dededo, it maintained an undisturbed limestone forest ecology.
Following the War (after 1944), as most of the village of Machanao was bulldozed to create the Naval Communications Station and Andersen Air Force Base, and the village center of Dededo was bulldozed to create the Harmon Air Force Base, displaced villagers were relocated into wood and tin houses, built by the U.S. Navy, on the land bordering the Southern end of the Nature Park, in what was then known as Liguan.
In the 1950s, as this area became established as the new village center of Dededo, more people also began to settle on the outskirts of the village center, with at least one family taking up a ranch-style residents in what is now the Nature Park.
In 1962 and 1963, Super-typhoon Karen and Typhoon Olive destroyed nearly all of the homes in Dededo. Up to 185mph wind speeds also paid a harsh toll on young and old native trees, devastating much of the flora that existed in the Nature Park.
In 1964, the government sold 247 acres of land, to include the village center and what is now the Nature Park, to the Kaiser Corporation - a private developer who would turn this area into an American style subdivision, complete with concrete homes and paved streets. It was at this time that the first paved road, West Santa Monica Avenue, that separated the Nature Park's land from surrounding area (the ponding basin) was built. Developers also disturbed much of the present limestone by excavating materials from the Nature Park and ponding basing, to be used at other locations. Fortunately, there are still some remaining areas of karst within the park.
In 1965 and 1966, Dededo Elementary School and Dededo Junior High School, later known as Maria Ullao Elementary and Vicente S.A. Benavente Middle School, were built on the southern and western ends of the Nature Park's forest. In addition, to accommodate the need for housing for the teachers that were contracted by the government to work in those schools, a staff housing development was built on the eastern end up of the Nature Park. Eventually a road would also be built, separating the two schools from the forest.
In the late 1960's, a plan was made to bulldoze the forest to make room for a much larger addition to the existent government contract staff housing development. Thankfully, those plans were eventually shot down and the forest was re-designated as a recreational park.
For more than 50 years, the forested park continued to exist in a undeveloped and unprotected state, while suffering from pollution, clear cutting, neglect, and an inundation of invasive species.
In the Summer of 2016, through an agreement with the Dededo Mayor's Office, Ayuda Foundation volunteers began surveying the forest, learning its shape and areas, cutting down trails, and removing invasive plants, as we envisioned the revitalization of the land for the purpose of island sustainability.
In November of 2017, what began as the "Dededo Nature Park" project, officially became Sågan Tinanom - an Environmental Program of the Ayuda Foundation.