There are many excellent recreation areas in Guatopo, such as Guatopo Creek (photo © Rodolfo Castillo)
The governmental organization responsible for all of Venezuela's parks, the National Parks Institute, administers and manages Guatopo. Despite the fact that Guatopo was the third national park created in Venezuela in 1958 (República de Venezuela 1958), it has never had a Management and Use Regulations Plan. Nonetheless, the park has been well managed, as is evidenced by the inhabitant evacuation and relocation process carried out between 1960 and 1971, as well as by the excellent recreation facilities and informative signs developed since 1970. Such success has not been repeated often in the rest of Venezuela's protected areas.
This park was created thanks to the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry's vision to plan for Caracas' water supply. They created ambitious forest, soil, and watershed conservation programs. They realized that Guatopo possessed a wealth of water that could be used to increase the water supplies of Caracas and neighboring towns. Such was the principal objective of that park's creation and the force that has driven its management ever since.
Once the park was officially created in 1958, all activities considered threatening to the area were prohibited. In 1960, an eviction decree was passed to relocate local inhabitants, which included 4,207 families (República de Venezuela 1960a). In an effort to effectively carry out the program and appease the interests of those involved, in 1963 the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry (of which the National Park Service was a part during that time) created a commission, called "Guatopo Command," which periodically called together affected rural farmers and introduced a series of measures benefiting them. The Beneficiaries Payment Commission was formed, which was responsible for carrying out the payment process and relocation of those affected. While there were times when the rural farmers objected to parts of the process, they finally accepted it and by 1971 the majority of the inhabitants had been relocated and 3,167 families had been paid benefits. Only isolated cases remained to be resolved (Yerena and Escalona 1992). This process has been cited as a successful and efficient strategy (Terborgh and Davenport 2002).
Currently, Guatopo has 16 park guards responsible for patrolling and monitoring. There are an additional 32 maintenance workers assigned to the infrastructure and recreation areas. These workers are usually employed for construction of recreation ifacilities in other national parks as well, and most of them are ex-park inhabitants. There is also one director, two technicians, and one administrative assistant. The park's administrative offices are located in the El Lucero sector, where an auditorium and a guesthouse are located. There is a 4X4 vehicle, which is 27 years old and is used to transport personnel, a pick-up truck that is 26 years old, and a motorcycle located at the La Elvira Park Guard Station. There is radio equipment that allows Guatopo staff to communicate with staff from El Ávila National Park.
The park's borders were originally defined cartographically and were originally established following the Lagartijo, Taguazo, and Taguacita watersheds (República de Venezuela 1958). Two years later, these borders were more precisely determined (República de Venezuela 1960b). As of 1960, the park covered 92,640 hectares and included part of the upper Orituco River basin. In 1985, Guatopo was increased in size to include 23% of the Cuira River basin (29,824 hectares), where a new dam is planned, bringing the final park size to 122,464 hectares (República de Venezuela 1985).
Inparques has intentions to create a new national park east of Guatopo called Serranía del Bachiller National Park. This park's objectives would be to protect tropic humid forest ecosystems and important watersheds, such as the Cuira River Basin (in its totality), Cúpira, and El Guapo. It would cover 243,000 hectares. This park would form an ecological corridor that would protect a continuous altitudinal gradient from the mountainous evergreen forests of Guatapo National Park to the dry ecosystems and coastal lagoons protected in Laguna de Tacarigua National Park (Naveda 1995). Thus far, the Serranía del Bachiller National Park is at the project proposal stage and its cartographic detail is at the 1:500,000 scale.
In general, Guatopo National Park's successful management is due to diverse factors including proper staff and resource management, sufficient technical capacity to carry out diverse programs, relative decision-making autonomy of park administrators, and constant administrative support throughout Inparques.