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United States Department of the Interior
NATIONAL PARK SERVICE Southeast Regional Office Atlanta Federal Center 1924 Building 100 Alabama St., S W . Atlanta, Georgia 30303 July 7,2011 Mr. Henry Neumann Zayas Department of Sports and Recreation Box 9023207 San Juan, Puerto Rico 00902-3207 Dear Mr. Neumann Zayas: Thank you for your letter of December 14, 2010, addressed to former Assistant Secretary o f the Interior Tom Strickland, requesting an opinion on appropriate uses for the Tortuguero JPark • property in the municipality of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico. Your letter with its supporting documentation has been forwarded to the Southeast Region of the National Park Service for response. In your letter you indicate having received two proposals for the development of projects at Tortuguero Park, one being a recreational park for people with disabilities and the other a wind energy project, and ask whether such uses at the park could be permitted. I am responding on behalf of the National Park Service to your letter. Pursuant to the March 7, 2008, letter from Mr. Bill Huie, former Program Manager of the National Park Service's Southeast Region Federal Lands to Parks (FLP) Program, to Mr. Miguel A . Santiago Cruz (that you enclosed with your request), on December 20, 1977, 320.8 acres were conveyed to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, at no cost, for public park and public recreation purposes in perpetuity. The property, originally known as the Vega Baja Auxiliary Airdrome Military Reservation, is now known as Tortuguero Park and has since been developed and operated for public park use in accordance with the Deed of Conveyance provisions. As noted in the March 7, 2008, letter, a recreational use of Tortuguero Park for people with disabilities could be consistent with the Deed of Conveyance provisions. Our opinion on that potential use has not changed as outlined in the letter. Deed Condition No. 3 allows for portions of the property to be developed for public park use through concession agreements with outside third parties. Any such concession agreement must be for a recreation-related business or service to further the use of and expand the public's recreational use and enjoyment of Tortuguero Park. GO


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Because of the perpetual public park and recreation use conditions in the Deed of Conveyance, it is not possible to authorize non-park use of Tortuguero Park. Power generation for the municipality by means of a wind energy operation is not considered a park and recreation-related use. Thus, the National Park Service would not be able to permit such use of the property. However, it may be possible to provide alternate sites for the park through a land exchange. Privately owned property (or non-recreational property under municipal ownership) within the Commonwealth could be used to replace the parkland that would be used for the wind energy operation. Land of equal or greater fair market value and recreational utility would be required in such an exchange. Land exchanges are authorized in the FLP Program. The following documentation would be required for our review and approval in order to fully protect the public interest: A request from the municipality to substitute land of equivalent fair market value and recreational usefulness. The request should include a discussion concerning how the park property to be exchanged does not serve the purpose for which it was transferred and how the exchange of the parcel would not prevent the accomplishment of the recreational purposes for which the subject property was originally transferred. The request shall include: 1. A boundary survey of both the portion of the park properties which are to be exchanged and the replacement parcel(s). 2. The fair market value must be obtained for all properties by appraisers certified at the Member of the Appraisal Institute level. Under no circumstances can the Government accept less than equivalent fair market property value or a payment for the difference in fair market values. Preparation of an environmental assessment for the replacement property describing the environmental effects of the proposed development. O f particular importance is the need to insure that the property is environmentally safe and is not latently contaminated. A Level 1 Survey form is enclosed for your information. A n assessment of the environmental effects, i f any, that will be caused by the proposed removal of the park and recreational use restrictions on the subject property which is to be converted to museum/training/educational purposes. (Are there any significant natural or cultural resources or threatened or endangered species on the subject tract?)



5. A n analysis by the municipality of the public park and recreation potential of the proposed alternative parcel(s). 6. A location map, legal description, Program of Utilization, and development schedule for the replacement parcel(s). The portion of Tortuguero Park that would be converted to non-park use must be appraised at its highest and best usage, which is as though the park and recreation restriction had already been removed. Once the land exchange has been approved, we will issue the exchange deed which will remove the park and recreation restriction from the converted property and immediately impose this restriction on the replacement parcels.

More importantly, additional restrictions also apply to this property through the Land and Water Conservation Fund ( L & W C F ) Program (Project No. 72-00095, approved August 10, 1984). Included among the conditions of grant acceptance is compliance with Section 6(f)(3) of the L & W C F Act of 1965, as amended. Section 6(f)(3) contains the following language: "No property acquired or developed with assistance under this section shall, without the approval of the Secretary be converted to other than public outdoor recreation uses. The Secretary shall approve such conversion only i f he finds it to be in accord with the then existing Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan and only upon such conditions as he deems necessary to assure the substitution of other recreation properties of at least equal fair market value and of reasonable equivalent usefulness and location." As the Tortuguero Park is covered by the terms of the L & W C F development grant, suitable replacement property (as described above) must be approved by the Secretary of the Interior, through the National Park Service, prior to any land exchanges taking place. For assistance in completing the L & W C F Program requirements, please contact Ms. Marilyn Serrano Larriuz, Puerto Rico National Parks Company, P.O. Box 9022089, San Juan, Puerto Rico, 30334. Ms. Larriuz will be able to explain Program requirements and assist you with the replacement of park property to be converted to non-park use. Ms. Larriuz is also available to review a draft concession agreement to provide recreational uses for people with disabilities. By copy of this letter, we are notifying Ms. Larriuz of your possible forthcoming requests for assistance. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact Mr. John Barrett, F L P Program Manager, at 404-507-5689 or via e-mail atjohn_barrett@nps.gov. Sincerely,

Chris Abbett Assistant Regional Director, Partnerships Southeast Region cc: Daniel Galan Kercado, Department of Natural and Environmental Resources Marilyn Serrano Larriuz, Puerto Rico National Parks Company