The work in the tourist area cost almost $4 million, the product of private donations after it was destroyed by hurricanes Irma and María almost five years ago.
Four years after signing a collaborative agreement with the municipal government, the Foundation for a Better Puerto Rico completed restoration work at the Flamenco beach resort in Culebra, whose facilities were destroyed by hurricanes Irma and María.
The restoration cost nearly $4 million, the product of private donations.
There, new showers, bathrooms, and nine kiosks erected in reinforced concrete and wood were built, in addition to reforesting the area, which will return to the hands of the city council for its operation and management, through the Autoridad de Conservación y Desarrollo de Culebra (ACDEC/Culebra Conservation and Development Authority), a municipal public corporation chaired by Mayor Edilberto Romero.
Dennis Rivera, president of the Foundation for a Better Puerto Rico, expressed feeling “incredibly happy and full of hope because this new Flamenco beach facility, which is the most beautiful beach in the Caribbean and one of the most beautiful in the world, can have a change and a significant impact for Culebra.”
“The number of visitors we are going to receive will increase dramatically and the facilities are unmatched by any other in the Caribbean. That will make Culebra a more attractive place for visitors and will result in an improvement in Culebra's economy,” said the former union member, who has been residing on the island municipality for over 20 years.
He recalled that, when agreeing to sign a contract with the city council, in May 2018, to take care of completely destroyed facilities, the biggest challenge was to raise a millionaire budget based on the trust of various private institutions and individuals who disbursed the money required to carry out the ambitious project.
“The municipality had already fired all the workers because it had no financial resources and, literally, that was a no man's land, being such an important beach for the economic future of Culebra. We made a collaborative agreement with the municipality, which establishes that we were going to take the initiative to raise the money, hire the architects and professionals that were needed to build the new facilities”, he explained about the work carried out by MFS Construction.
“In turn, the municipality promised us to maintain the facilities for 20 years and give them maintenance, because it was one of the great concerns that we had because, in Culebra, there was a history that these structures were made and, later, they were left Because they were not maintained, the structures did not work,” he added.
In fact, one of the agreements is that the municipal administration will have to obtain and maintain the certification of the Blue Flag program, an international denomination that earned it recognition as the sixth most beautiful beach in the world in several instances, the last being in 2016.
According to the vision of the Foundation for a Better Puerto Rico, “the main goal is the protection and preservation of Flamenco Beach for present and future generations of Culebrenses and visitors; preserve the ecological value of Flamenco beach, the protection of its dunes, its corals, the bay and the proper management of solid waste.
Likewise, it is ambitious to “promote and support the business economy in Culebra with a beach open all year round, and achieve a greater number of visitors with excellent services in the spa, camping areas, and kiosks. Over 90% of businesses in Culebra benefit from tourism, with Flamenco being the number one attraction in Culebra and Puerto Rico.”
"The purpose is to make Flamenco beach economically self-sufficient and to help the Culebra Conservation and Development Authority to survive and fulfill its purpose, to ensure the environment and all the beaches of Culebra," said Rivera.
On the other hand, to operate the spa, 22 employees are needed to cover the areas of administration, reception, collection, fieldwork, security, lifeguards, cleaning, and maintenance personnel, among others.
“The interesting thing about Flamenco beach is that it is an area where you can camp and spend the night there, next to the sea. We want to offer different things to people; a more varied culinary offer, rental of chairs, locker, ice, towels, 'souvenirs' and items for the beach, internet, signs for orientation areas, creating educational material that recognizes the historical value, the successful and courageous struggle of the people Culebrense,” Rivera said.
“We want to ensure that, with the collections, we can pay the employees, maintain the area, we can have lifeguards, have security personnel, first aid and frequent training for personnel,” he stressed.
Project costs amount to $3.6 million. Of that total, $2 million was raised through entities such as the Hispanic Federation, Fundación Comunitaria, Unidos por Puerto Rico, New York Community Trust, and the Boston Foundation, among others.
In addition, $300,000 of the charge to visitors and $1.3 million donated by the construction company were identified. However, the investment would rise to $4 million, since the cleaning and pruning in the camping areas amounted to $100,000, and "there are still some details to complete," said Rivera.
Finally, he clarified that "the camping areas that Para La Naturaleza pruned need to be completed, but we hope to deliver the facilities to the municipality, with the use permits, at the end of July or the beginning of August."
“Culebra has a spectacular opportunity. Throughout the Caribbean, the beaches have been destroyed and we, by having these facilities, have one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and now we are going to have the facilities. That integrated combination is going to put Culebra in a unique situation, which will not have competition. Not even the most luxurious hotels are going to have facilities like the ones we are going to have, at incredibly low prices and where everyone can go”, he concluded.