At nearly 1,000', Monte Pirata is the highest point on the island of Vieques, and it boasts spectacular natural views in every direction. As this site has been closed for over 20 years to the general public, few of Vieques' visitors or residents have been to the top to experience its subtropical moist habitat or view the forests and lagoons on which migrating and resident birds, bats, reptiles and amphibians rely. The success of a smaller observation platform project which we handled in 2019 has inspired us to raise funds to tackle a bigger project: Reopen Monte Pirata to the general public.
Our goal is to create a group of viewing platforms, one of which will wrap around a section of the eastern slope on top of the mountain. The vision includes parking mid-way up the mountain, two off road hiking trails in addition to the paved roadway, and interpretive signage.
A Remnant Forest
Over the past few centuries, activities such as clear-cut logging, sugar cane production and cattle grazing have touched almost every corner of Vieques. Today, the steep slopes of Monte Pirata remain one of the least disturbed forest areas within the Vieques NWR. Here we can see mature secondary neotropical forest in a subtropical moist life zone.
Two conspicuous species are the endangered Mata Buey tree and the Teyer (or broom palm) Palm, both native to Puerto Rico.
Conservation to Reintroduction
Monte Pirata's habitat shares many similarities with El Yunque, the US National Forest Service's only tropical rainforest, which is just 15 miles to Vieques's northwest. Currently the remaining wild populations of endemic Puerto Rican parrot are found in three sites across the main island of Puerto Rico, including el Yunque, where conservationists have worked for decades to protect and repopulate this endangered species.
Tied to the Vieques NWR's conservation efforts is the observation that the Puerto Rican parrot could be reintroduced to the Monte Pirata ecosystem, where it was once reported to be found.
The plan is to create a walkway circling the peak. Sections of the walkway and the main observation platform will be handicapped accessible, with large decks where, due to the steep drop-off, there are unimpeded natural views in every direction. Materials for the largest observation platform are projected to cost $17,000.00. Additional project elements include a new parking area, 2 new off road hiking trails, site work and the design of interpretive signage.
Paul Small, registered Engineer and Surveyor, completed the engineering plans which allows for scheduling the project's construction phase.
Follow the project as it unfolds on our blog!
Be part of
UPDATE as of Dec, 2022
The construction costs of the main platform has been fully funded and the platform is complete. The VNWR supplied all the materials and Ticatove's fundraising efforts covered the labor costs. In order to open to the general public, the FWS will complete a mid-mountain parking lot, open a trail under canopy and install interpretive signs. Stay tuned for the grand opening of the main platform and for future fundraising efforts for other related projects.
... to these donors who share Ticatove and the VNWR's vision to provide sustainable access to the beautiful natural wonders of Vieques's subtropical humid habitat found on Monte Pirata. Together we supported the construction of the main platform.
Special thanks to Architect Paul Lutton who donated his services to draft the original design of the main observation platform, allowing TICATOVE and the USFWS to visualize the needed pieces for this project.
Mike & Grace Barandiaran
Michael & June Behrmann
Anthony Chaviano & Sara Jean Childers
Jane & Robert Clark
Pablo Connelly/ Vieques Environmental Institute
Ann & Richard Courtney III
Julie & Terry Culhane
Dennis & Mary Ann Currier
Dale & Priscilla Doucette
Timothy & Margaret Eburne
Jim & Mary Folsom
Randy & Rosemarie Furst
Valerie Gillett & Franz Kolb
Margaret & Norman Griffin
Gregory Guckenburg & Mary Hillery
John & Jane Hackenburg
Lynnette A. Hernandez
Matt & Catherine Hyotte/ McCance Foundation
Tracy & Frances Kidder
Trish Kurkul & Kathi Rodriquez
Rick & Christy Lavers
Mary & Hector Matos
Lloyd Merrill & Ruth Lansner
Kathleen Mooney & Frederic Thaler
Palmer & Susan Morrell-Samuels
Mike & Marie Murphy
Barry & Claire Nelson
Arthur & Rachael Ravitz
Scott & Julie Reenders
Charles Sklar & Jeff Mendoza
John Stoklosa & Nancy Cole
Katie Waters/ McCance Foundation
Edward John Wintle