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El Tuque is a beach and family recreational and tourist complex in the Punta Cucharas sector of Ponce, Puerto Rico. It was designed in the early 1960s by Luis Flores, an architect from Cayey, Puerto Rico. It is located on PR-2, Km 220.1, in the El Tuque sector of Barrio Canas in Ponce. The sector of El Tuque is considered Puerto Rico's largest populated sector.
The once deserted beach was developed into a balneario (balneary or bathhouse) by the government of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in the mid-1960s, as part of the central government's attempt to provide a network of such recreational spots throughout the island. It included gazebos and fire pits near the beach, a restaurant, changing rooms with showers and lockers, a children's pool, and two adult Olympic-size swimming pools with snack bars.
Due to beach erosion that occurred over the years, a beach replenishment project then took place in 1979, but the sand added was darker than the original sand there and locals now consider the beach "dirty".
By the mid-1980s, however, the area had fallen into disrepair, starting with the swimming pools and parking areas, for lack of proper maintenance. As a result, the beach opened only sporadically. Eventually the complex was permanently closed in the late 1980s.
Over a decade later, in 1996, the United States Army Corps of Engineers picked up the El Tuque project again for purposes of re-furbishing the beach with new sand. In May 2002, private investors became interested in the area and entered into a contract with the Puerto Rico central government to develop the area into a family and tourist recreational center. The investors spent $16 million to develop the area into the El Tuque Beach Entertainment Center.
El Tuque Recreational Complex today includes an aquatic complex splash water park with three pools with waves, high speed water slides, and water sports. Some of activities the park makes available are hiking, swimming, boating, fishing, whitewater paddling, snorkeling, and scuba diving. The complex has a pub and a Quality Inn hotel located on the beach, within the recreational complex facilities. A nearby Holiday Inn hotel that had opened a few years earlier, provides additional lodging facilities for beachgoers.
A second addition to the project, which opened in 2003, includes a new speedway called the Ponce International Speedway Park. It includes a drag-racing track and circuit track. The speedway drag-racing sections has both 1/4-mile and 1/8th-mile sections, and the full circuit is 1.52 miles long and incorporates 12 turns. A small marina has also been added. Boating and kayaking is promoted as part of the center’s eco-tourism activities.
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