Leslie Ponce de León

Master Plan and green infrastructure in the San Quintin Lagoon Complex, Baja California, Mexico 

Location of the project: San Quintín, Baja California, Mexico
Sector: Architecture

Academia: Landscape Architecture, Environmental Management
Collaborators: San Quintín Botanical Garden AC, Pro Esteros AC and San Quintín Foundational City Council 

Leslie is a landscape architect from the National Autonomous University of Mexico with a diploma of merit with her thesis entitled “Landscape Management Plan in the El Palmar State Reserve”. Passionate about the design, construction, and management of open spaces, she has gained further insight in co-design, creativity applied to design, participatory leadership, agreements and negotiations, nature-based solutions, sustainable cities, and integrated management of coastal areas. 

In 2016 she won second place in the Carlos Pellegrino Award International Competition; together with two colleagues she developed a landscape proposal for the Cerro de Montevideo in Uruguay. In 2020 she studied the Specialty in Environmental Management at the Autonomous University of Baja California. In 2022 he won first place in the competition to receive mentoring by the Green Infrastructure Network of the German Cooperation for Sustainable Development in Mexico. Currently working in a civil association, San Quintín Botanical Garden, giving continuity to the project planned since 2019. 

In February 2020, the Congress of Baja California declared the region of San Quintin as the sixth municipality of the state. Prior to its municipalization this vast territory belonged to Ensenada, with the new delimitation the largest municipality in Mexico emerged, with an area of 34,185 Km2.

The municipality stands out because 69% of its surface area is Natural Protected Areas, the largest population and towns are concentrated in the north, parallel to the Transpeninsular Highway. The main source of income comes from agro industry, mining, and aquaculture. The agricultural fields require day laborers to work these fertile lands with a Mediterranean climate, and the labor supply is the main reason why it is a land of migrants from the south and center of the country, and even foreigners. It is in San Quintín where the cultural and ethnic plurality of its communities converges with a geomorphological, floristic, faunal and historical diversity unknown to the vast majority.

In this transition period, the Coastal Solutions Project emerged, with the Master Plan and Green Infrastructure in the San Quintín Lagoon Complex (CLSQ), which aims to strengthen the coastal resilience of habitats associated with birds and human interactions (economic and recreational) in the San Quintín Lagoon Complex through three lines of action:  

1. To influence public policy of the municipality, through its land management, planning and regulatory instruments.  

2.Construction of a green infrastructure network with three application schemes: urban, rural and natural areas under a conservation plan, with different strategies according to scale. 

3.Consolidate a network of collaborators for the management of priority areas and green infrastructure committed to creating economic, social and environmental benefits for the community. 

In the first axis, the process of municipal strengthening continues, for the development of binding management instruments that contribute to territorial planning, laying the foundations for orderly management and optimizing the municipality’s scarce resources. In this sense, alliances between key actors, researchers and civil associations have been fundamental during the construction of ways of working and exchanging knowledge, with which we continue to collaborate. 

In this territory, the biocultural heritage of the region was documented in 10 sites with unparalleled landscape qualities. Subsequently, those sites with the greatest potential were selected for an interpretation and valorization of the landscape in script format; the intention is an analogy to a guided tour of an open-air museum.  

To facilitate, identify, and interact with each of the sites, a monopod for cell phones was designed and installed at a strategic point, with which it is possible to take a picture of the panoramic landscape. The tour to the San Quintín living museum is designed for locals, offering a weekend site visit, keeping with the context, and taking into account the vast territorial extension. The monopod allows you to take a picture where all visitors appear, and even if only one person goes, you can get a very good picture of San Quintin, and living the experience of appreciating it from another perspective.

In relation to the areas near the beach with agricultural land tenure, municipal authorities and police departments were asked to work on reversing the fragmentation of the landscape, caused by the use of roads and motorized vehicle traffic.  

In CLSQ it is a constant feature to find flooded or hardly passable gaps, where the bare soil and winter rains make transit difficult in each of the routes within the region. Therefore, in an attempt to avoid getting stuck in the mud, users pass through areas where vegetation allows vehicular traction. Efforts continue to achieve this objective of maintaining the main accesses and discouraging the use of alternate roads.  

In the urban area, there are 74 open spaces, including parks, plazas and sports facilities in the neighbourhoods that make up the San Quintín Valley, and only two parks have legal certification from the municipal authorities.

To resolve this demand, we are currently working with the community of the Ejido Nuevo Mexicali neighbourhood park in which neighbours and users are invited to join in different activities for its intervention and reactivation. Some with the objective of showing the cultural diversity of San Quintín, others aimed at exercising their rights as citizens, while others invite them to see the environmental, social and economic benefits that green infrastructure provides, and its importance in this century.    

The collaborative work in San Quintín, with different actors who are involved and work in the projects developed, work together for a common good. Promoting a municipal vision where community development is congruent with the vital ecological processes for the health of people and the environment. Creating awareness that it is a long-term process, and requires constant and coordinated work.

The 3 Main Achievements of this project:

1. Building collaboration networks with the projects, and the continuation of the green infrastructure plan. 

2. Visibility of the main challenges before municipal authorities and coordination of efforts for their correct management. 

3. International recognition with first place in the Incubator of Green Infrastructure Initiatives of the German Cooperation for Sustainable Development in Mexico.

A vision to the future:

Currently, there is a project called Securing the Future of the San Quintín Lagoon Complex (CLSQ), which provides continuity to the Master Plan and green infrastructure. Its main objectives are:

  1. Identify, and quantify in hectares, the vulnerable zones of 3 areas of importance in the (CLSQ) prone to flooding, considering 3 scenarios of sea level rise reported by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). 
  1. Define at least 3 prevention strategies that incorporate Nature-Based Solutions to flooding in the 3 areas of importance to the (CLSQ). 
  1. Consolidate a network of binational collaborators integrated by: government, civil society, academia, NGOs, and private industry to define responsibilities, actions, and implementation of the Nature-Based Solutions for the next 2 years in the 3 areas of importance for the CLSQ. 
  1. Use the results of the three previous points to help the municipality of San Quintín in the elaboration of its land use planning, legal instruments and regulations.  

Each of the areas is intended to meet different coastal management needs according to its use: residential, productive and recreational.

This project is currently seeking funding, and is being developed in collaboration with Dr. Róman Canul, a 2020 Coastal Solutions Program Fellow, and civil associations with expertise in ecological restoration, including: the ecology department of Nature Collective, SouthWest Wetlands Interpretive Association (SWIA), the Science and Conservation department of the San Diego Botanic Garden (SDBG), and the San Quintín Valley Birdwatchers Club.

Coastal Solutions Fellowship Program

The Coastal Solutions Fellows Program builds and supports an international community to design and implement solutions that address coastal challenges across the Pacific Americas Flyway. Our main goal is to conserve coastal habitats and shorebird populations by building the knowledge, resources, and skills of Latin American professionals, and by fostering collaborations among multiple disciplines and sectors.