El Yunque is the only rainforest in the U.S. National Forest system. It is a stunning natural treasure The USDA Forest Service is investing a million dollars this year into a project to improve access to El Yunque.
“This investment is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to ensure rural communities have equitable access to the infrastructure and economic opportunities they need to grow and thrive,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack explains. “El Yunque is a special place to the people of Puerto Rico and USDA is committed to investing in the Forest to promote visitation, recreation, and economic development — outcomes that can be maximized through collaboration and partnerships with the public and private sector.”
Tourism has been a focus recently in Puerto Rico and is growing. While it has in the past provided a smaller proportion of the overall economic pie in Puerto Rico than in other tropical paradises, this has been improving. El Yunque is an important destination, accounting for 20% of the tourism industry in Puerto Rico. 1.2 million people visit the rainforest each year. .
It’s also an important location for scientific study. Like many other places in Puerto Rico, it offers unique opportunities for research. To consider just one example, the number of different species of trees in El Yunque is equivalent to the number of species of trees in all the other National Forests combined. This is all the more amazing when you consider that El Yunque is one of the smallest National Forests.
The USDA has already put $250,000 into development of a master transit plan. This will focus on park-and-ride facilities that will shuttle visitors into the forest. At present, 3,000 cars visit the park each day — and there are just 300 parking spaces.
In addition to reducing traffic congestion, this new system will make El Yunque more accessible to people with limited mobility.
The project will also include
- Expanding and improving the existing El Yunque Visitor Center to enhance visitor experience.
- Constructing a new access road to the El Portal Visitor Center.
- Constructing a new trail network to explore the diverse ecosystems of El Yunque.
- Installing additional interpretive signage throughout the park.
- Developing a mobile app to provide park visitors with up-to-date information.
- Creating a new El Yunque Education Center to provide educational programs for visitors.
- Enhancing public safety by improving existing infrastructure and installing new safety equipment.
- Developing an El Yunque Volunteer Program to support park activities.