Tucked in a lush valley on Saipan’s windward side, Laolao Bay’s rich coral reef ecosystem has made it a popular fishing spot for generations and earned it the reputation as Saipan’s best all-weather dive site, averaging up to 200 divers per day. Laolao Bay is a cherished recreation site for local families, providing a peaceful backdrop for picnics, BBQs and swimming excursions. As rich on land as it is in the sea, the area also draws hikers, runners, and history buffs to view its artifacts, including pictographs, village remnants and pottery deposits that date back several thousand years. Laolao is truly a community treasure.
But Laolao reefs and forests, like many places on Saipan, are under environmental stress from such things as sedimentation, development, and unsustainable beach activities such as poaching and littering.
In fact, Laolao was designated as a focal point for efforts to restore marine and terrestrial environments in the CNMI, given its environmental and cultural value and the threats to its health. However, for these efforts to be successful, we believe community members must be empowered to lead the way. As a result, surveys were done to assess what community users were most concerned about in Laolao. Littering and dumping consistently scored as the biggest concerns, by sizable margins. And the community is right. Litter is a big problem in Laolao. In response to what concerns residents the most, the campaign is focused on making Laolao litter free as the first big step to protecting Laolao for generations to come.
To do that, the strategy is simple: Give community champions opportunities to tell why they believe Laolao is special and deserves special care. The Our Laolao campaign strives to capture people’s stories about why they cherish the bay, and in the process, inspire everyone to help keep Laolao Bay litter free for everyone. Once you know how much your neighbor cares about Laolao, it’s hard not to respect it. So please visit The Voices section to learn more about why people value Laolao.
But their stories alone are not enough. We want to hear your Laolao stories, too! Go to Share Your Story to raise your voice for Laolao. Your story could be the next one featured on our Facebook page and in upcoming news articles.
The campaign also shines a light on the rich cultural and environmental value of the bay and what community members can to do protect it. We hope users will learn more about how special Laolao is to our island identity. Supporters can then Sign the Pledge to show support for a litter free Laolao and participate in campaign activities, such as beach cleanups, story contests, and flash mobs (yes, flash mobs!). Everything helps. Visit the Get Involved section to learn more.
Our Laolao is an experiment in how powerful a community can be if it cherishes the places that make us who we are and speaks out on their behalf. Our Laolao is the first step in a community-driven effort to save not only Laolao, but to also showcase what makes Saipan special. From Laolao, we hope to reach out to other parts of Saipan and the CNMI to protect our island way of life. But a journey starts with one step. So take this first step with us in Laolao and let’s see how far it can take us.