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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

FEMA allocates $4 million for restoration work at Caguas botanical garden

William Miranda Marín Botanical Garden in Caguas

By The Star Staff

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has allocated some $4 million to the William Miranda Marín Botanical Garden in Caguas, directed at the recovery and strengthening of the site due to damage caused by Hurricane Maria.

The funds will support the restoration of infrastructure and provide tools for risk mitigation in the important natural and cultural resource, Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator José G. Baquero said.

“This allocation will restore an invaluable natural resource, strengthen the fabric of the community, and protect an important habitat where even pre-Columbian archaeological sites are preserved,” the FEMA official said. “Projects like these go beyond minimal repair and reaffirm our commitment to current and future generations.”

The Botanical Garden is located on the grounds of the former San José sugar mill, an important agricultural stronghold founded by the Spanish in the Turabo Valley between the 19th and mid-20th centuries.

Gil Calderón, executive director of the Botanical Garden, said it is the only place in Puerto Rico where evidence of the combination of the three main ethnic groups that make up the Creole (European, African and Taíno) has been found.

“For this reason, the site is divided into four main zones representing each of these ethnicities and one dedicated to the Creole, where one can find flora and fauna representative of these peoples and cultures,” he said. “Our vision is to be a world-class ethnobotanical garden, a leader in tourism, culture, nature, and agritourism attractions in Puerto Rico. To be the best alternative for sustainable tourism in the Caribbean.”

Calderón added that at the same time, “our mission is to be internationally recognized as a premier center in terms of research, education, and interpretation of natural, cultural resources, and sustainability strategies.”

Part of the work already completed with the funds assigned by FEMA includes the repair and replacement of various elements, from lamps and posts to security and communication systems that operate through monitors to provide information to visitors. Likewise, water pipes, lighting systems and roof panels were replaced.

Other repairs will be carried out in the administrative offices, concession stands, the butterfly garden, the Casa Jíbara, the visitor center and recreational areas. Funds will also be allocated to repair bridges and the artificial lake, and for improvements to the garden’s security area.

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