Great North Park
The Great North Park has a diversity of facilities and was opened in 2014 on the Three Kings Day ceremony. It supports the cities of Hatillo and Camuy with their tourism economy, but also functions to join the people of both cities. The park areas consist of ten gazebos for personal activities, a playground for children, a boardwalk for a peaceful walking, a viewpoint for the city landscape, and fields for basketball, volleyball and soccer. The east side of the park incorporates the mouth of the Camuy River where it flows into the Atlantic Ocean. The beach is recognized by the name of "Rio Mar", but it isn’t suitable for swimming due to strong maritime currents. However, Hatillo has hosted an annual kayak ride in the park since 2015. The parking and entrance of the park is free, but visitors may wish to bring some money for the trip because the park has a restaurant, bicycle rental, and a small-scale train for children to ride.
Backstory and Context
Since Hatillo became a progressive city with strong economic growth and urban development, the project of the construction of the Great North Park started. The Great North Park is located at 119 street at the border between Hatillo and Camuy; it helps to increase the tourism and economy of both cities. “Porta Atlántico” is one of the tourist destinations that includes the municipalities of Camuy, Hatillo, Arecibo, Barceloneta, Manatí, Vega Baja, Vega Alta, Dorado and Toa Alta (Delgado, 2012, p.16). Hatillo’s government and citizens work to develop new attractions in the city for Puerto Ricans and visitors from other countries. The opening of the Great North Park was not an easy or fast task; the park had some issues during the years before it could be finally opened to the public. The opening was delayed because of governmental issues, including a debt with the AAA, Puerto Rico's Water Company, for thirty-seven thousand dollars, which needed to be resolved so the park could count on water service connection (Piñeiro, 2014). When the park opened to regular visitors in 2014, organizors held an inauguration ceremony on January 6, a national day of Christian celebration known as Three Kings Day to honor the three kings who brought gifts to Jesus when he was born. Two renowned politicians, Puerto Rico's Governor Alejandro García Padilla and the mayor of Hatillo José “Chely” Rodríguez, attended the inauguration activity. After a lot of effort, the Great North Park finally had every requirement to open for visitors, and still welcomes visitors to attend regular activities and enjoy the facilities at the park.
The Great North Park is well suited for families to spend the day, for friends to participate in outdoor activities and for individuals to relieve stress. It has an extensive area of 18 acres with bathrooms, drinking fountains, and electricity service. The park's facilities include ten gazebos for personal activities, a playground for children, a boardwalk for a peaceful stroll, a viewpoint to take in the city landscape, a basketball court, and volleyball and soccer fields. The park has free parking and a range of convenience facilities for its visitors. An interesting fact about the park is that people use it to practice extreme water sports using the "Río Camuy" estuary that flows into the Atlantic Ocean located to the west of the park. The Great North Park has a diversity of facilities for the benefit of all types of visitors.
Every year, the park celebrates a kayak ride, which affords visitors the opportunity to enjoy the facilities and the park's natural environment. The annual kayak ride usually takes place during May or June, and this activity started in 2015. Many people participate in and support the kayaking activity on the Camuy River because is a well recognized tourist location. The mouth of the river makes an ideal site to host these types of water-based activities and has enough space for the organizors at the Great North Park to host the many families and organizations that attend the event. The beach at the park is known as “Rio Mar”, but the waters are not suitable for swimming due to strong maritime currents. However, the beach and shallow waters are considered safe for kayaking and other similar water sports like paddleboard (Minelli Pérez, 2015). Every year at the annual kayak ride, hundreds of people experience the natural resources the park has to offer.
In 2017, the Great North Park was severely hit by the category five Hurricane Maria that passed over Puerto Rico and caused extensive damage across the island. On September 18, 2017, Hurricane Maria struck the island, causing a countrywide disaster; it is undoubtedly a historic date for all of Puerto Rican citizens. Because of the hurricane winds and the mass volume of excessive rainfall, the Camuy River overflowed. The beach suffered damage and the entire park needed to be cleaned and repaired after overwhelming amounts of debry were dragged across the coast. Since then, the appropriate care of the natural resources remains a priority to preserve the park in exceptional condition. After the needed renovations due to the natural catastrophe were completed, some new facilities were also brought to the park. The construction of facilities such as the gazebos and a kid’s playground replaced the older damaged facilities. New facilities available after the renovation included a restaurant serving local food, a bicycle rental for use in the park, inflatables for the kids and some decorative murals for taking pictures. The park managed not only to restore the park but also to add new facilities that made a great improvement to the visitor's experience.
Today, the Great North Park is a recognized toursit destination that highlights the region's natural resources and incorporates modern facilities. The park increases tourism while helping the economic growth of the country. The Great North Park has a diversity of options, so everybody might enjoy themselves in one place, and it hosts an annual kayak ride with associated entertainment schedule and extra activities. The park struggled before and after its opening, but the motive of creating a recreational area where everyone has the opportunity to enjoy nature and participate in outdoor social activities went above and beyond all adversities.
Delgado, S. (2012). Alojamiento temático: Hostel especializado en enseñanza del idioma español (Publication No.4214) [Master's thesis, Universidad del Aconcagua]. http://bibliotecadigital.uda.edu.ar/objetos_digitales/430/tesis-4214-alojamiento.pdf.
Minelli Pérez, S. Hatillo y DRNA rescatan área natural anegada en basura, Primera Hora. June 20th 2015. Accessed April 30th 2020. https://www.primerahora.com/noticias/puerto-rico/notas/hatillo-y-drna-rescatan-area-natural-anegada-en-basura/.
Piñeiro, R. Listo para la apertura el Gran Parque del Norte de Hatillo, Indice. February 27th 2014. Accessed April 30th 2020. http://www.indicepr.com/noticias/2014/02/27/news/16236/listo-para-la-apertura-el-gran-parque-del-norte-de-hatillo/.