The U.S. Forest Service is gearing up for a busy summer visitation season with the arrival of the Memorial Day weekend as El Yunque National Forest continues to recover after hurricane impacts.
While the Forest Service has been able to re-open access along most roads in El Yunque, only about 40% of the recreation areas, trails and services are now available, it said.
As reconstruction efforts continue, many areas will remain closed until they are safe to re-open, the Forest Service added.
El Yunque currently has a parking capacity of approximately 160 parking spaces, a significantly reduced capacity from before the hurricanes.
“For visitor safety, when the Forest parking capacity is reached, the gate at La Coca Falls may be temporarily closed to public entry; as enough vehicles leave El Yunque, the gate would re-open,” the government agency said.
The recreation opportunities currently available include: The Mt. Britton trail system with hiking to upper elevations for scenic views, Angelito Trail and Puente Roto along PR 988, PR 186 with viewing of streams and waterfalls in the western portion of the Forest and Río Sabana Recreation Area in the south side of the Forest in Naguabo.
A variety of outdoor recreation activities such as swimming, water sports, hiking, ziplining and other cultural activities are also available in the areas and communities surrounding the forest.
There are currently no picnic facilities open in the main recreation corridor on the north side of El Yunque. Bathrooms are limited to portable toilets while water and electrical services are being reestablished, the rainforest’s management said.
“The number of trails available for hiking is also limited. Hiking access to the popular La Mina Falls remains closed due to heavy impacts to the trails caused by landslides and floods. Design work to rebuild the trails is underway, but it will take more than a year to complete,” the Forest Service added.
Forest Service OKs El Yunque’s final Land Management Plan In related news, El Yunque National Forest has signed a record of decision to approve its revised Land Management Plan, which takes advantage of new opportunities and adapts to new challenges that emerged since the last plan went into effect in 1997, the agency announced.
El Yunque National Forest Supervisor Sharon Wallace said the plan reflects more than six years of collaboration between partners, communities, visitors and other organizations in working to meet the many needs of those that depend on the forest.
“This plan provides for access, economic development and education while protecting forest resources and connecting with surrounding communities,” said Wallace.
The plan has broad public support from local communities, partner agencies, and non-governmental organizations. The forest received only one objection when the final plan was released in 2018. That objection concerned feral cats and dogs, and the forest is working with local organizations and officials to address those concerns, she added.
This plan provides management direction for El Yunque for the next 10 to 15 years. It considers challenges like urban encroachment, climate, and changing use trends and addresses them across all land ownerships. The plan also considers the combined economic, social and ecological issues on and around the forest that influence future management.
The new, revised land management plan goes into effect 30 days after the publication of the Notice of Approval in the Federal Register.