When you travel to the west of Puerto Rico, you can see the coast of the municipality of Quebradillas and Isabela, particularly the Guajataca Tunnel, one of the most beautiful coastal views on the entire island. What for decades was a tourist attraction, being the gateway to Isabela from Quebradillas, and a place where history and nature came together, for years has been in complete abandonment – a situation that worsened after Hurricane Maria. Today, thanks to the teamwork of several non-profit organizations, community groups, municipal governments and businesses in the region, as well as their donations and economic contributions, the northwest region has a revitalized Guajataca Tunnel, ready to receive visitors.
The initiative emerged when a group of non-profit organizations, led by Conservación Costera (CocoPR), along with local businesses and community groups requested action to manage and maintain the tunnel area, to make it more accessible and attractive to local visitors and tourists.
“When CocoPR approached us to be part of this initiative, we immediately saw the impact this could have on the region and its communities through the visitor economy. Bottom Up was working at that time in the Aguadilla and Isabela region and it was in the community meetings that the Collective brought to our attention the importance of revitalizing Guajataca,” said Alma Frontera, director of economic development programs for Foundation for Puerto Rico (FPR).
This was the beginning of a collaboration where people from the community donated their time for clean-up work, while local businesses and various organizations provided equipment and materials for the revitalization work. The Arte para Isabela collective donated their talent and time for the creation of beautiful and eye-catching murals, inspired by coastal life. For its part, FPR, through the Bottom Up Destination Recovery Initiative, granted $10K by paying for labor and services, purchase of materials for the coordination, cleaning, painting and reconstruction work, which began on August 25 and continues to refine some details in the area.
The Guajataca Tunnel is an example of how a historical and tourist attraction can contribute to the development of the visitor economy and have immediate and long-term effects on a region. Thanks to the improvements made, the tunnel has received more visits, local vendors have made the tunnel their point of sale, collectives of artisans will be setting up shop on the weekends to sell their works as part of the Isabela Arts and Craft Nights, and there is a greater participation of guided tours in the area.
The Guajataca Tunnel is a railroad tunnel that connected the municipalities of Isabela and Quebradillas. It is one of the most significant works of the remnants of the national railroad network that connected the island during the first half of the 20th century. In the year 2000, the Government of Puerto Rico declared it a historical monument. Its railway use came to an end in 1957. The tunnel is open to the public and leads to Guajataca beach, known for its white sand and perfect waves for surfers.
This effort would not have been possible without the support of countless volunteers and organizations and companies, among these: Municipality of Isabela and Quebradillas (Municipal Public Works, Fire Department, Emergency Management), Arte Pa’ Isabela, Coastal Conservation, Isabela Train Museum, Phi Delta Gamma, Para la Naturaleza, Los Muchachos de Llanadas Organization, Quebradillana Ecological League, Org. PASE, Professional Rescue Organization, Parador Vistamar, Palefrutas, Agueybana Frappe, Fitted Nutrition, Glossa Media, La Villa Sport Bar, JP Sport Bar, Alineamiento y Balance Oby, Leo’s Pizza, among others.
The Bottom Up program is possible thanks to the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA).