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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

DNER urged to intervene over access to Cueva del Indio in Arecibo

Visitors to the Cueva del Indio nature reserve in Arecibo are being forced to pay a landowner $10 per person to access the natural heritage site, a community leader says.

By The Star Staff

Lauce Colón Pérez, a community leader in the Islote neighborhood of Arecibo, on Wednesday called on the interim Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) secretary to intervene at the Cueva del Indio nature reserve, charging that not only is its main entrance being managed by businessman José González Freyre, but that he also charges for access to the site.

“González Freyre not only has a fence placed right alongside the sand, clearly in the maritime zone, but he has also taken over the main entrance to our reserve established by an official demarcation of almost 40 years,” Colón Pérez said. “The community demands that the DNER secretary, Mrs. Anaís Rodríguez Vega, attend to the matter and identify a main and official entrance to the Cueva del Indio Nature Reserve.”

He pointed out that since 2016 the only two public entrances used by the community to Cueva del Indio have been constantly covered with garbage and debris, including the entrance to the east of the González Freyre farm and the coastal entrance to the west of Cueva del Indio.

“As a community, we denounce the landowner and millionaire José González Freyre, owner of the land that surrounds the Cueva del Indio Natural and Marine Reserve, for blocking access to the natural reserve area and the maritime-terrestrial public domain, since in addition to the cave, the area has beaches and pools that cannot be accessed directly,” Colón Pérez said.

“Residents of the neighborhood, of different ages and generations, confirm the existence of this main road located in the middle of González Freyre’s land, beginning where his gate is located,” he added. “Relevant agencies and our elected representatives must address this pressing issue to ensure free community access to the Cueva del Indio.”

The situation, Colón Pérez said, has forced visitors to the nature reserve to pay González Freyte $10 per person between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. to access the natural heritage site. However, according to the ticket office documentation that visitors to the Cueva del Indio receive when paying the entrance fee, they are being charged $1 for state tax and 15 cents for municipal tax on the entrance price.

“It is very concerning that, according to González Freyre’s entry tickets, the state and municipal government is charging a tax on the privatized and monetary exploitation of the Cueva del Indio,” Colón Pérez said. “This should be investigated by DACO [the Consumer Affairs Department] and the Treasury Department and the DNER.”

The community also demands compliance with Planning Law 75, the Land Use Plan and Joint Regulations, and the provisions for access to the island’s coasts, Colón Pérez added, as well as with Law 33-2019, the Puerto Rico Climate Change Mitigation, Adaptation, and Resilience Act.

According to Planning Law 75 and the Joint Regulations of 2020, there must be access from the island’s highways to the coasts every 400 meters.

“At the Cueva del Indio, which is a marine reserve and a nature reserve, this is not happening,” Colón Pérez said.

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