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:
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.
Be part of
As of June 2021, planning for the Monte Pirata Observation Platform has been well underway. To date we have raised $20,000.00, including meeting a $5,000.00 challenge grant. Due to the support of local donors, the VNWR received additional funding to purchase the materials for the main observation platform. This freed Ticatove's donations to fund the employment of local residents as the construction crew. We are thrilled to report a local contractor has joined the project and construction of phase 1 began March 21, 2022!
Yet, we still need your support to cover the materials and labor for the additional walk-ways, hiking trails, and interpretive signs design work and printing, all of which we aim to have in place for the grand reopening!
TICATOVE, a local, community-based, non-profit organization, has worked on conservation of nesting sea turtles and other natural resources for over 15 years, assisting the Vieques NWR on projects that improve Wildlife Refuge visitor experiences and expand recreational opportunities. We believe this observation platform and the accompanying hiking trails fits our core mission.
TICATOVE is a registered 501(c)(3) organization, and your contribution is tax deductible within the limits of the law.
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!
... to these donors who took the first step of helping us to realize this project:
Dale & Priscilla Doucette
Frederic Thaler & Kathleen Mooney
Mike & Marie Murphy
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.