By Lisa Flueckiger, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Hikers and mountain bikers will now receive increased military police presence when practicing their sports in Rio’s Floresta da Tijuca National Park. The national park surrounding the hills of Rio is Brazil’s fourth largest urban park and is popular for its many trails and waterfalls.
The Floresta da Tijuca National Park has an area of 3,972 hectares filled with Atlantic rain forest. It is divided into three sectors, Floresta, Serra da Carioca and Pedra Bonita/Gávea, and with its three million annual visitors it is the most visited park in Brazil.
It is very popular among the physically active population of Rio, as it offers great trails for hikers, the most difficult one recognized as Pedra da Gávea, that has several hills ideal for mountain biking as well as easier paths leading to small waterfalls, which are especially popular in the hot summer months.
However, due to the size of the park, access, control and safety are often an issue. On May 1st, several mountain bikers and at least one other tourist were robbed in the middle of the forest and had their bikes taken.
In response, Rio’s military police has now assumed the policing of the park and will patrol the popular paths through the park. Additionally, some special units of the police, such as Bope and Choque, will use the park as training facility, increasing the presence of the police even further.
“We decided to act in an integrated and joint form, both in the Tijuca National Park and in the Grajaú State Park, which together form the Maciço da Tijuca. The idea is to increase patrolling in the region and its main access points. The population can be sure that, from now on, the parks are safe,” Lieutenant Colonel Marcelo Rocha, commander of the Tijuca battalion, promised.
During weekends and holidays, when the park is especially popular and crowded, policing numbers will be increased. While most of the park is relatively accessible for travelers new to Rio, it is recommended to go with someone that lives here or a guide service.