Arroceros Forest Park
The Arroceros Forest Park is a riverside park in Manila, Philippines, located on Antonio Villegas Street (former Calle Arroceros) in the central district of Ermita. Developed in 1993, the 2.2-hectare (5.4-acre) urban forest on the south bank of the Pasig River, at the foot of Quezon Bridge, consists of secondary growth forest with 61 different tree varieties and 8,000 ornamental plants providing a habitat for 10 different bird species. Despite its small size, it is considered an important feature of the city. It lies in a historic area of Manila and has been called "Manila's last lung", being the city's only nature park. The park is administered by the City Government of Manila in partnership with private environmental group, Winner Foundation.
The area occupied by the Arroceros Forest Park used to be part of Parián, the Chinese trading settlement during the early Spanish colonial period. In the 19th century, it was the site of the Fabrica de Arroceros, a tobacco factory owned and operated by the Compañía General de Tabacos de Filipinas. During the American period, it was used as a military garrison which housed the Signal Corps at the Cuartel de Infantería and the Surgeon General's office at the Estado Mayor. When the Philippines gained independence after World War II, the barracks were converted into the headquarters of the Department of Education.
The park was established in 1993 after the government's education department offices were transferred to its present location in Pasig. Through a memorandum of agreement signed between the City of Manila and Winner Foundation supported by then First Lady Amelita Ramos, the city agreed to lease the site for development as a nature park by the private environmental group. With an initial 150 century-old trees that survived the war, the park now hosts over 3,000 trees through reforestation efforts spearheaded by the Manila Seedling Bank.
The park became the subject of controversy in 2003, when then mayor Lito Atienza ordered its closure to give way to the construction of a school administration building and teachers' dormitory on a portion of the park despite protests from conservation groups. The groups claimed that of the 8,000 trees in the park in 2000, only 2,000 remained when the buildings were completed. The park was reopened in 2007.
The Arroceros Forest Park, designed by landscape architect Wilfredo Dizon and the Bulacan Garden Corporation, is home to over 3,500 trees of diverse variety, such as acacia mangium, acacia auriculiformis, African tulip tree, agoho, anahaw, banyan, bunga de china, dapdap, eucalyptus, ficus benjamina, fire tree, Indian tree, kamagong, mahogany, MacArthur palm, molave, narra, neem, rain tree, rattan, rubber tree, talisay, teak, tiesa and yucca. It is also inhabited by different fruit trees, including aratilis, avocado, banana, caimito, coconut, guava, macopa, mango, santol, as well as ornamental plants like calachuchi, gardenia, golden shower, palomaria and ylang-ylang. The park has tiled pathways and concrete roads giving access to areas around the park. It also contains a fish pond and bridge, as well as a riverside walk. The park is a habitat of different bird species, such as the long-tailed shrike, pied fantail, zebra dove, Pacific swallow, yellow-vented bulbul and brown shrike. It also houses the Manila Education Center, the central offices for the Division of City Schools located at its southern edge.
The park is located in the center of Manila, just north of the Manila City Hall adjacent to the walled district of Intramuros. It is within walking distance from the Central Terminal LRT Station and is right across from the Manila Metropolitan Theater. It is accessible from Rizal Park and southern Manila via Padre Burgos Avenue, and from northern Manila via Quezon Boulevard and Quezon Bridge. It is also near the Lawton Bus Terminal and the Pasig River Ferry Lawton Station.