Meet Our Partner: Torres del Paine Legacy Fund

Traverse is thrilled to partner with Torres del Paine Legacy Fund on our Chile & Patagonia trip, donating 5% of that trip’s sales and visiting with their team as well as engaging with members of the Kawésqar community with whom they collaborate. With an expansive array of impactful and integral projects supporting sustainability in the iconic region of Patagonia, their impressive work is truly inspiring. It’s clear that Torres del Paine National Park will continue to be enthrall visitors for generations to come as a direct result of the efforts, projects & collaborations of Legacy Fund - quite the legacy indeed!!

The Mission

1. What are the primary objectives, projects and goals of the Torres Del Paine Legacy Fund?

The Torres del Paine Legacy Fund is a non-profit initiative dedicated to enhancing the long-term health of Torres del Paine National Park and its surrounding communities. We engage local and international tourism businesses, municipalities, park authorities, fellow NGOs, and visitors in an effort to collaboratively raise funds, awareness, and execute local sustainability action projects that:

  • Restore and protect ecosystems

  • Improve tourism infrastructure and mitigate visitor impacts

  • Promote community development

  • Diversify recreation & cultural opportunities for residents and visitors

Some of the projects planned for the 2019-2020 season include: 

Volunteers carrying-out reforestation monitoring. Photo: Cristobal Ortega

Volunteers carrying-out reforestation monitoring. Photo: Cristobal Ortega

  • Monitor the reforestation progress of more than 30,000 replanted trees

  • Complete a two year collaborative project to help indigenous Kawésqar communities of Magallanges revitalize their culture through the development of three distinct tourism products. 

  • In conjunction with fellow NGO Conservation VIP and CONAF, complete and open a new sustainable trail between the Paine Grande and Italiano campgrounds of Torres del Paine National Park. 

By addressing multiple aspects of sustainability, and with an innovative partnership model to do so, the Legacy Fund seeks to establish a virtuous cycle for collective, long-lasting responsible destination management in one of the world’s most unique and cherished natural landscapes. 

The History

2. Tell us about how Torres Del Paine Legacy Fund started and a bit about its history up through the present.

Declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1978 and now considered by many as the 8th wonder of the world, over 280,000 people visited Torres del Paine National Park in 2018 - nearly doubling the 145,000 people that visited in 2012. Such intensive use and overcrowding has placed a significant strain on the region’s unique flora and fauna, aging infrastructure, limited trail system, and insufficient resources. 

The Torres del Paine Legacy Fund was founded in 2014 in response to the challenges posed by this rapidly increasing visitation in one of Patagonia’s most iconic yet fragile landscapes.

Credit: Amanda Centero

Credit: Amanda Centero

Through the years, our organization has built a reputation for cross-sector collaboration to improve local destination stewardship. In 2019, we now have more than 50 different wonderful partnerships that allow us to effectively mobilize resources, diffuse information about sustainability practices and create more impact in this treasured part of Patagonia. 

In addition to the impact that we have at the community level, we have become known for our volunteer projects that we carry out in the park. Each year, diverse groups of volunteers from all over Chile come to support Legacy Fund and CONAF in various conservation and infrastructure efforts. Between trail-maintenance, reforestation, and boardwalk construction, this program gives many people an opportunity to affordably visit the park, learn about conservation, and leave a positive footprint. 

Achievements

3. What have been the biggest achievements of Legacy Fund in recent years?

Legacy Fund volunteers construct water bars on a new trail to control erosion. Photo: Timothy Dhalleine

Legacy Fund volunteers construct water bars on a new trail to control erosion. Photo: Timothy Dhalleine

  • Establishing the region’s first permanent recycling system in collaboration with the municipality of Puerto Natales. Recycling increased by 600% in 2016, diverting over 250,000 kg of waste from the city’s already overcrowded landfill.

  • Establishing a new 192m2 greenhouse to cultivate lenga tree seedlings for restoration of fire-affected areas of the Park. 20,000 seedlings have been established in the nursery and 3,800 trees have been planted by local high school students, many of whom were able to visit the famous national park in their own backyard for the first time due to the Legacy Fund’s support.

  • Constructing, restoring or maintaining over 6,000 meters of trail, 340 meters of boardwalk, and bridges within the park to ensure visitor safety, minimize erosion and destructive side trails, and avoid disruptions to sensitive habitats, particularly in fragile wetland areas. These projects bring together park rangers, tourism professionals, and local and international volunteers to work side by side on stewardship initiatives, providing training in trail maintenance fundamentals.

The Team

4. Talk to us about the Legacy Fund team. Are they volunteers or is it a full-time job? What types of daily tasks do they do?

The Legacy Fund team is small, but mighty. We are made up of our Director: Emily Green, Field Director: Wes Espinosa, and Project Coordinator: Bruna Fuentes Miranda. Because of our small, grassroots size, our whole team wears various hats at any given time and depends on the support of volunteers to carry-out projects in the park. 

Fortunately, thanks to our more than 50 international and local partners, and volunteers from all over Chile, our small team is able to have a BIG impact. The three of us all lead various projects in the field, support partnership development, create project plans, and work in tandem to measure and report the impact that we have. It’s not uncommon for one of us to be in a park sleeping in a tent for a week and working on a trail with 10 volunteers, while another is managing an event/workshop at a hotel in Puerto Natales, and the other is writing a report --- or even preparing box lunches for another volunteer project!

Legacy Fund team.

Legacy Fund team.

Because of our love for the national park and the incredible community that we have in Puerto Natales, we’re able to build projects and create much needed impact each year. 

Our Partnership

5. What are you most looking forward to about this collaboration with Traverse Journeys and the visit with our guests?

The Legacy Fund is so fortunate to have a partner like Traverse Journeys that’s equally as committed to giving back to destinations and helping visitors leave positive footprints. We really believe that our Kawésqar Community Tourism and Empowerment project, which Traverse visitors will have the opportunity to learn more about, will help reshape the local cultural narrative and create a more enriching visitor understanding about Patagonia’s original people. 

Junquillo artisan crafts made by the Kawésqar Community

Junquillo artisan crafts made by the Kawésqar Community

The Kawésqar have a rich culture of their own to share and are eager to introduce visitors and residents alike to their heritage. These nomadic seafarers were among the first people to inhabit Patagonia’s fjords, skillfully navigating these channels in canoes, catching their meals from the sea and weaving their own artisan handcrafts from Junquillo - a local fiber. Traverse visitors will have the opportunity to learn about how these artisanal goods are made and learn how to weave their own artisanal goods from community members.

Our visit with Legacy Fund on day 4 of our Chile itinerary, just before we spend several days exploring Torres Del Paine will no doubt be a highlight for many guests on the trip! Visiting with the local indigenous community, as well as getting an in-depth look into the park’s history and unique environment is certainly an exceptional way to begin any explorations in this stunning natural landscape at the ends of the earth!