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The Pterocarpus Forest project has its roots in the conservation goals of the Palmas del Mar Homeowners’ Association (PHA).  The Association has long been an advocate for conservation and maintenance of its more than 200 acres (809,000m2) of green areas, including beaches and lakes.

Through annual maintenance fees paid by its members, and in coordination with the Puerto Rico Conservation Trust, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (F&WS) and the Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources (DNRA), PHA has restored or maintained hundreds of acres of coastal and green areas, including forests. In fact, through its Habitat Conservation Plan (first entered into with the F&WS in January 2003) PHA protects endangered sea turtles nesting in the coastal area of Palmas.

By the end of the 1990s, after the devastating passage of Hurricane Georges, the Pterocarpus Forest became an abandoned, distressed woodland. Invasive weeds and grasses and damaging vines had overtaken the forest, posing a grave threat to its very survival. Within the impenetrable forest were the rotted remnants of a mile-long wooden boardwalk.  In 2010, the Palmas del Mar Homeowners’ Association (PHA) purchased the land and, with technical advice and support from the Puerto Rico Conservation Trust and the collaboration of the Fish & Wildlife Service, developed a plan for its restoration.

In less than four years, the nonprofit Homeowners’ Association, with the help of the newly formed Friends of the Pterocarpus Forest (PHA Pterocarpus Forest, Inc.) and others, restored the forest to a much healthier state.   The remnants of the dilapidated boardwalk were removed as were the invasive weeds and vines and work was begun to create an accessible reserve at the site.

A new, winding 3/4-mile, elevated and accessible boardwalk was constructed, winding its way through the beautiful interior of the forest.  From the boardwalk visitors can observe closely its flora and fauna, including migratory birds that visit the area.

The Forest was officially inaugurated in November 2014 and opened to the public in February 2015, when the adjacent observation tower and gazebo was completed. The gazebo serves as the Forest’s Visitor Center.  The open-air facility has ample space for educational talks and meetings as well as social gatherings.

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