Para la Naturaleza and Roosevelt Roads Enter Alliance
Malu Blázquez Arsuaga, executive director for the Redevelopment of Roosevelt Roads, and Fernando Lloveras San Miguel, president of the nonprofit Para la Naturaleza (For Nature), recently announced that both organizations signed a lease contract for 20 years to establish a Visitors Center at the former Roosevelt Roads Naval Station in Ceiba.
The center would be located in front of the ports area, in a facility that used to house the print shop of the base when it was under the U.S. Navy, and encompasses 3.43 acres of land with a 6,240-square-foot structure. The center will serve as the administrative office for the estimated 3,408 acres of conservation land in the area. The center’s staff will organize and give tours of the land, as well as forge alliances and volunteer efforts with the Ceiba community and other surrounding municipalities.
Para la Naturaleza currently offers tours on the grounds of the old base, in the areas known as Medio Mundo and
Daguao, where 40% of the land has been given over to conservation. This protected natural area features ecosystems such as wetlands, estuaries, mangrove forests, coral systems, marine habitats and dry forests, as well as species in danger of extinction such as the Puerto Rican yellow-shouldered blackbird (known in Spanish as mariquita) and manatees. Tours groups also visit Los Machos wetland, which represents 10% of the mangroves that are left in Puerto Rico.
These lands under conservation were transferred to the P.R. Natural & Environmental Resources Department (DNER) from the Department of the U.S. Navy as part of the Public Benefit Transfer that took place in 2008, when 3,340 acres were transferred, and then in 2014, when another 68 acres were transferred. As part of the agreement between the Navy and the DNER, the land is to be administered by Para la Naturaleza, which is expected to invest some $300,000 for remodeling the building that will house the Visitors Center. The work is expected to begin sometime this year and should be in operation by the end of 2016.
Besides the employment generated during the remodeling phase, the land management and administration efforts and the organization’s other offerings, the project represents new recreational and educational opportunities for residents and tourists, especially for the estimated 10,000 young people who live in the Ceiba and Naguabo municipalities.
Para la Naturaleza is a nonprofit organization of the Puerto Rico Conservation Trust. Its goal is to integrate society with the conservation efforts of natural ecosystems on the island and increase the percentage of protected lands from the current 8% to 33% by 2033.
The organization aims to provide people and communities with transforming experiences that inspire and motivate concrete action in favor of nature, such as volunteer work, donation of funds and lands, and/or the establishment of conserved lands. Para la Naturaleza also manages the Visitors Centers and natural areas at Hacienda Buena Vista in Ponce, Hacienda La Esperanza in Manatí and Cabezas de San Juan in Fajardo.