Community hopes DNER proves an ally in restoring neglected park
By The Star Staff
While residents in Condado are trying to protect an area park against private interests, a community is enduring a similar battle to restore the El Banquillo park located in a high-elevation area of PR-143, a highway that runs from Ponce to Barranquitas.
The three-acre park was abandoned for 25 years. El Banquillo community spokesman Félix González told the STAR that the community has been trying to restore the park for two years to turn it into an “inclusive park” to be used by people with disabilities, to bring in local artisans and to hold musical concerts.
The park has benches with messages such as “I just need an answer that frees me from the past,” and “One day I lost everything and recovered much more than I lost.”
Over the past month, González said, a person from the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) identified as Gerardo Hernández has “become an impediment” toward the project, destroying all of the repairs made by the community.
The DNER “covered up murals, took away bathroom equipment and closed the park,” he said. The DNER also destroyed a vegetable garden and removed a swing, the community leader added.
The agency also planted pine trees in the area, a plant species that prevents the growth of other plants, he noted.
González said in response to a STAR question that the community informed the DNER about its plans to restore the park.
“We told them that we are doing the job that they were supposed to do,” he said.
Through the intervention of Villalba Mayor Luis Javier Hernández, the community is slated to meet with agency officials to try to reach an agreement.
González said he was told that the DNER said it was not trying to destroy the park, and even said Hernández was acting independently, but that he is doubtful of those remarks.