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August 03, 2010

Where The SUN, Southwestern College meets the WiLDCOAST

Albert H. Fulcher

I am always amazed when I meet someone who’s life is so intermingled on both sides of the border. Their personal story is such an intricate mix of their love of Mexico and America. Two cultures with just as many things in common as not. WiLDCOAST’s Paloma Aguirre is one of these stories.

Coordinator for the Coastal Conservation Program, Aguirre heads a major joint effort clean-up project in the Tijuana River Valley y cruzando la línea, en el Cañón del Alacrán (Scorpion Canyon) en Los Laureles, Tijuana.

Born in America, Aguirre lived her life in Mexico until 2001. Leaving Puerto Vallarta to live in San Diego, she arrived just a few days before 9/11. Aguirre said that she always wanted to come back here for an education and also to be a bodyboarding competitor.

Catching waves in Imperial Beach is where she met Serge Dedina. Aguirre said she saw him placing water signs on the beach. Curious, she went to him to ask what he was doing. She had no idea of the pollution problems that this tiny beach town has suffered for years. With her love of the ocean-came the love of the cause. Aguirre began volunteering for WiLDCOAST in 2005.

Aguirre volunteered for two years, worked part time and then went back to school. Graduating USD in psychology she has been program coordinator for WiLDCOAST’s bi-national cleanup efforts for a year. She said she is a passionate advocate of ocean conservation and that clean up of the Tijuana River Valley is an vital portion of keeping the estuary and ocean clean.

These clean-up projects are well coordinated, volunteer based and enabled by concerned citizens on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border. In one day, with more than 50 volunteers removed a half ton of trash and 100 waste-tires from Effie May’s Trail.

On July 24, more than 20 city workers and 45 residents in Los Laureles, Tijuana gathered with WiLDCOAST to remove solid waste and trash from Cañón del Alacrán. Using two heavy duty excavators, two dump trucks, this team of volunteers removed more than 15 tons of solid waste and trash.

Aguirre has many goals for her program. She said her goal is to inform stakeholders on both sides of the border the effects of trash and river run-off and its impact on our entire local ecosystem.

Encompassing 1,739 square-miles the Tijuana River watershed has been a doorway of pollution leaving a path of trash and contaminants, fed into the ocean at the river’s mouth. WiLDCOAST reports show that depending on ocean current this pollution impacts beach water quality from Playas de Tijuana, Mexico up to Coronado.

This is a bi-national problem, and WiLDCOAST, with the hard work of people like Aguirre are pulling two nations together for a common cause.

Aguirre said it is not easy with a life that crosses the border constantly, but she has WiLDCOAST in her blood.

“I grew up in Mexico and all of my family lives there,” said Aguirre. “WiLDCOAST has been a constant in my life-my extended family. Under the leadership of Dr. Dedina, someone with such a passion, it is a great family to be a part of.”

Paloma is always looking for volunteers that can work on both sides of the border. Lend a helping hand. Contact her at

Fulcher, Albert. Where The SUN, Southwestern College meets the WiLDCOAST. The Sun Southwestern College, Web Blog. August 3, 2010