• The San Juan Daily Star

Guajataca Forest on track to reopen after a decade in decline

The island government is taking steps to reopen Guajataca State Forest in Isabela to the public. The 2,357-acre reserve has languished in a state of inattention since 2010.

By John McPhaul

The Guajataca Forest Reserve in Isabela could reopen to the public after Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia signed Senate Joint Resolution 29 in recent days, which orders the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) to refurbish all facilities and recreational areas, and clear trails as part of the reopening of the state forest, which since 2010 has been devoid of surveillance and protection.

“The approval of this measure is of the utmost importance in order to help with the economic development of our region,” Sen. Migdalia González Arroyo, who chairs the Western Development Committee, said in a written statement. “In addition, it addresses a situation of abandonment that our forests have been experiencing for years.”

Work in the forest is expected to begin in the next few days.

“The Department of Natural and Environmental Resources will conduct all the necessary steps for the conditioning of all the facilities and cleaning of the trails, including the reopening, after conducting an investigation that the conditioning and cleaning make the forest safe for visitors,” the senator added. “As part of the efforts to be carried out by the DNER, lighting should also be considered, and improving the conditions of the pavement on the PR-446 road that runs through the area, as well as the traffic and safety signs at the facilities.”

The Guajataca Forest is one of the 14 public forests that make up the forest system of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. It occupies some 2,357 acres of land and has 25 miles of trails. It is classified as a subtropical humid climate forest and has the best trail system of all the island’s national forests.

In November 2010, it was decided to shut down the detachment of the Police Corps that had been attached to the Guajataca area, transferring all its officers to the Aguadilla Office. Since then, the forest has been devoid of the security and vigilance necessary for its due protection. For this reason it has deteriorated and has inoperative areas, noted the author of the legislation.

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