Decree Number 1,430 declared San Esteban National Park on January 14, 1987 (República de Venezuela 1987) to conserve relevant, representative portions of the Coastal Range’s ecosystems and landscapes and marine and coastal-marine areas located in front of Puerto Cabello’s northeastern coast.
Specific objectives include protecting the headwaters of the rivers draining into Lake Valencia and the Caribbean Sea (Vigirimita, Cucharonal, Los Apios, El Corozo, Las Rosas, Jabonera, María, El Pozote, San Diego, Agua linda, Cabriales, Trincheras, Miquija, Goaigoaza, San Esteban, Borburata, El Palmar, Patanemo and Yapascua rivers); and protecting the region’s historic, cultural, and archeological heritage.
The park’s management plan, Plan de Ordenamiento y Reglamento de Uso del Parque Nacional San Esteban* was published in 1996. Use Zones are described, as are each zone’s corresponding permitted and prohibited activities.
It should be noted that part of the coastal-marine interface has not been zoned. This area, which corresponds to the part between Jurelito Point and Cambiadores Point, is described in Article 2 of the national park’s decree as the “500-meter strip measured from the beach perpendicularly into the sea between the PNSE-95 and PNSE-100 marker stakes.” This description also appears in subsequent decrees that modify the park (González 2003). Following are the descriptions of the park’s zones.
Integral Protection Zone (PI)
This zone is made up of fragile ecosystems or biotopes that justified the area’s declaration as a national park in the first place; they require absolute protection. Along the coast, the PI includes Ratón, Santo Domingo, Alcatraz and Rey Islands, the coral reefs, the sea, and all of the beaches suitable for turtle and American crocodile nesting, regardless whether or not these areas overlap with other use zones. The terrestrial PI includes the central portion of the mountains on both slopes where most of the pristine evergreen and cloud forests are found. The park’s highest altitudes are considered part of this zone. Only scientific research, environmental monitoring and environmental protection are permitted.
Wilderness Zones (P)
This zone is made up of natural environments in pristine conditions that can withstand moderate use, including scientific research, environmental education, passive and extensive recreational activity.
-Terrestrial Wilderness Zone (PT). This zone includes the forested belts found along the extreme eastern and western portions of the park. The zone also includes the colonial road and all areas that were historically influenced by man. Bocaina Lagoon, in Patanemo’s Cove, is included in this zone. Scientific research, excursions, posting of information signs, and maintenance of pre-existing roads are permitted.
-Marine Wilderness Zone (PM). This zone includes the marine portion of the park from Yapascua Point to Flores Point, as well as the Pelona, Coral, Norte, and Sur depths. Scientific research, environmental education and monitoring, and recreational activities like scuba diving in the corals, sailing, and rowing are permitted. Navigating within the coves is permitted under certain regulations.
Naturally Managed Environment Zone (ANM)
A large part of this zone is considered a buffer zone between the populated centers and the park. The zone’s management objective is to maintain a natural environment with minimal human impact and provide public access and facilities for educational and recreational purposes. Educational and recreational activities are permitted, including navigation and diving in the marine sectors of the zone.
Natural Recuperation Zone (RN)
This zone includes sectors that were altered prior to the park’s declaration and that need restoration in order to return them to their original state. The objective of this zone is to stop anthropogenic resource degradation and eradicate introduced exotic species. Currently, agricultural activities that occurred before the park was declared are still permitted in this zone.
Recreation Zone (R)
There are seven recreation zones in the park, but the only functioning one is on Isla Larga. The other recreation zones include Pimentel Plantation, Trincheras River, several points along San Esteban River (La Toma, Campanero and Las Quinuas), the Vaqueros sector on the Borburata River, Santa Rita Creek, and the Mantuano sector along the Goaigoaza River.
Service Zone (S)
This zone includes areas with infrastructure for the public, such as hotels, cabañas, restaurants, eateries, recreation centers, campgrounds, parking lots, as well as the infrastructure for administering and protecting the park. There are various service zones corresponding to planned park guard stations: In Seco Valley, the town of San Esteban, the northern sector of Las Trincheras, the sector north of Bárbula, the sector north of San Diego, sector Tronconero, sector El Mamón in El Castaño, the sectors Taborda and Miquija, sector Patanemo, sector Borburata, sector Yapascua and sector Isla Larga. Even though these are planned in the park’s decree, not all sectors actually have park guard posts. In addition, other service zones are found at Pimentel Plantation in Vigirmia, at the area south of Yapascua Cove, and in Isla Alcatraz’s lighthouse tower.
Historic-Cultural or Paleonthological Interest Zone (IHC)
There are certain sites within the park with historic, archeological, or cultural significance that are preserved as part of Venezuela’s cultural heritage. The following sites are included: the buttress of Las Rosas Hill and the Piedras Pintadas monticule, both in Tronconero sector; Pimentel Plantation, the coffee cooperative installations along Jengibre River, Corona del Rey petroglyphs, San Diego aqueduct, the Paso Hondo Bridge, Solano Fortress, Borburata’s electrical plant, the Españoles Road, which includes ancient ovens and the old coffee storage center along Los Apios Creek.
Special Use Zone (UE)
This zone includes four previously existing 230 kw electrical lines, the town of San Esteban, a navigation canal between Rey Island and the mainland, international waterways as specified in the management plan, and three security and defense areas between the Larga and Alcatraz Islands and the beaches of Rey and Santo Domingo Islands. This last special use zone also doubles as an Integral Protection Zone between May and September when the sea turtles nest and the eggs develop.
Seven park guards patrol the park; four are assigned to the southern slope and three are assigned to the marine portion. There are no park guards on the continental portion of the northern slope. There are four technicians, two of which are sector directors (the sectors are the northern and southern slopes), a ticket office clerk, three security guards, and one superintendent.
There are plenty of signs on Isla Larga and Quizandal, but fewer in other sectors like Campanero.
There are three park guard stations located in Miquijía, Campanero and Isla Larga, all in the northern slope sector. The park also has dormitory quarters for 18 people, an information center, and bathrooms for visitors in Campanero’s recreation zone. There is another dormitory for 14 people in San Diego; the fire fighters corps operates out of these quarters. The Carabobo administrative Inparques office is in Valencia and the superintendent’s office is in Puerto Cabello. Both offices are in good condition.
The park is assigned three 4-wheel drive pick-up trucks, six motorcycles, one small boat called a peñero and one patrol boat; however, only three motorcycles, one pick-up truck, and the boat work.
* San Esteban National Park’s Management Plan and Usage Regulations