In 2015, ACE Puerto Rico was established through a partnership with San Juan National Historic Site. The site is managed by the National Park Service and its’ mission is to protect and interpret colonial-era forts, bastions, powder houses, and three-fourths of the old city wall. The ACE crew primarily works at the two forts, Castillo San Cristobal and Castillo San Felipe del Morro.
Due to the sites’ location in Puerto Rico’s capital, and given its’ great historical value, the site receives over a million visitors each year. The partnership began to assist the site in maintaining the facilities, including cleaning litter from the grounds. Since the onset of this partnership, the work has expanded into trail building and historic restoration. A new nature trail now exists around the perimeter of the old city wall that ends at a spectacular view of the ocean.
A daily, ongoing part of the maintenance division’s duties at San Juan National Historic Site is preserving and repairing the two-and-a-half miles of fortress walls and three forts. Hurricane Maria accelerated the natural erosion that takes place from rain and wind and has caused a higher demand for repairs.
The NPS staff have been conducting an in-depth study of the historic materials used to build the walls including sandstone, limestone, and brick, as well as learning the traditional construction techniques used in the original construction of the forts. This work is a finetuned science since modern materials, such as cement, are not compatible with the original structure. Using a mixture of lime, sand, water, and crushed brick and traditional application techniques, the NPS staff have been gracious enough to take ACE corps members under their wing and teach them this invaluable skill.
Several of ACE members have moved onto NPS positions, including the NPS staff member pictured above, Kenneth De Graciani. “That is our goal, that we will work alongside the ACE crew members, train them, and then hire them on with the National Park Service,” stated Jose Santiago. ACE is so thankful that our corps members are treated as members of the team at the San Juan National Historic Site and are continuing to gain skills and experiences through this partnership.