Drive down the winding dirt road to the heart of the future park. First you’ll notice the buildings, stately stone facilities designed to last lifetime. Soon, though, your eyes may wander to the collection of native trees, bushes and shrubs punctuating the buildings, and you may wonder—how did these massive trees get here?
As a team, we consider transplanting one of our great accomplishments. Working in our remote corner of the world, we can’t buy plants from a nursery. In the quest to use native species, we’ve developed techniques to transplant large specimens from areas of high density around the park. The park’s relatively small machines means that the landscaping team must come up with ingenious strategies for moving large trees and insuring their long-term survival. As Pablo Martinez, the team’s leader for the past six years, says, “being as a landscaper,” he says “is schooling for both work and life.”
With lessons and jokes abounding, the team has used this mild winter to make rapid progress around the park headquarters—critical since we plan to open the park to the public in just over a year. The members of the team include Jose Foitzick, Francisco Panichini, Miguel Chodil, Augustin Catalán, Juan Muñoz, Cesar Parada and Tommy Sergio Velazquez.
In the past weeks, two employee housing facilities, casa vizcacha and casa guanaco, have seen major changes. The team has wrangled numerous young poplars—both beautiful and excellent at blocking those fierce Patagonian winds–into place. In high-traffic areas, they’ve focused on gardens of native species, such as mata negra (escallonia virgate) and chappele (chapel oak), in which visitors will be able to learn about the key flora of this ecosystem.
Another important project has been fixing up the area around the restaurant. This is the first building visitors see when they drive into the future park. It’s quickly becoming well known for its architecture, interior design and, of course, the food.
One of the challenges of creating a national park is working with and amongst wild animals. Many of our poplars were damaged due to overgrazing by guanacos and subsequent transplantation of newer, larger trees became necessary; the process involved a lengthy journey to locate prime specimens, extracting 24, and planting them strategically around the restaurant.
Mastering the art of transplanting in Patagonia requires particular care and attention to detail. Unlike lush landscapes where a stick stuck in the dirt will take root, Patagonia has thin soils, high winds, and a harsh climate, making growth slow and plants fragile. We’ve had to work hard to create a restored, pleasant area for park visitors. But with a backdrop as beautiful as we have, the work to make the foreground a fitting complement is a pleasure.