When the Shawsheen River Watershed Association meets next month for its annual meeting, a retired, environmentally conscious couple from Andover will share their insights from Costa Rica, where ecotourism is very much alive and river water is pristine.

"Ecotourism" is a form of tourism involving visiting fragile, pristine, and relatively undisturbed natural areas, intended as a low-impact and often small-scale alternative to standard commercial (mass) tourism, and Bob and Alice Friedenson of Bellevue Road enjoy traveling that way.

They plan to pass along some positive environmental snippets from their favorite Central American country that is bordered by Nicaragua to the north, the Caribbean Sea to the northeast and Panama to the south. They will present a slideshow of their 20 years of traveling Costa Rica. The slides are very colorful and full of the country's undisturbed wildlife, such as monkeys, iguanas and flamingos. Bob, a professional photographer, has captured vivid images he and Alice will share at the annual meeting. 

Most local retirees snowbird to Florida or Arizona to escape a New England winter but the Friedensons snowbird to Costa Rica, where they rent a house for three months. They have been going to Costa Rica since their first vacation there in 1997 and love to share what they have learned about the "pura viva," or pure living emphasis of the country.

"There's good water, great people who care about preservation and areas that were turned into national parks," said Bob, who retired from Bell Labs and was the webmaster for AVIS. "It's a country where family and community really matter."

His talented wife is a clay sculptor who created a clay program for children in Costa Rica. A retired math teacher from Salem High School in New Hampshire, she frequents the Essex Arts Center in Lawrence for sculpting projects.

"Clay comes from the mountains, I use driftwood to roll it and I use lots of shells from the beach for my projects with the kids," she said.

Like many Shawsheen River Watershed Association members, Alice dreams of a pristine Shawsheen River one day, where there are lots of free kayaks, she said. Kayakers could see the river's natural beauty. The association is an all-volunteer group whose mission is to protect and restore the  Shawsheen River.

The meeting is Wednesday, June 19 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Memorial Hall Library. The public is welcome and registration at mhl.org is required.

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