83.2 F
Cruz Bay
Tuesday, May 21, 2024


April 22, 2001 – As St. John observed Earth Day for the 10th year Saturday, Juanita Canton's fifth grade class at Julius E. Sprauve School learned it was the winner of the three-week Trash to Treasure Hunt. But, one way or another, everyone involved in the celebration — and the work that went with it — was a winner.
Sponsored by the V.I. National Park and the St. John Community Foundation, the Earth Day celebration in the little park by the National Park Visitor Center in Cruz Bay was the culmination of activities from early this month that included an islandwide cleanup, school visits by environmental specialists, and an environmental awareness exhibit.
The Trash to Treasure Hunt "involved students collecting plastic bottles and aluminum cans islandwide and receiving awards and cash" based on the weight of the containers collected, V.I. National Park guide Deanna Somerville, one of the Earth Day coordinators, said Saturday.
Students from the island's public and private schools took part, Somerville said, working from April 2 through last week.
As first prize, the Sprauve fifth graders will get a night's stay at the V.I. Environmental Resource Station (VIERS) campsite at Lameshur Bay. The second-place team, Pine Peace School's combined third/fourth-grade class, won a trip to Coral World on St. Thomas. And the third-place team, the third graders at Sprauve, will be treated to a pizza party.
"It was great picking up cans and plastic bottles, but it was also a lot of work going into the bush among the casha prickles," winning team member Keisha Ferdinand said, beaming. "Our teacher said she couldn't believe how many bags we collected, and she gave the whole class a hug and said how great we were."
Somerville said all of the student teams "worked hard from the first day we announced the hunt, and it paid off for them." One group found a 25-year-old can, she said.
The cans and bottles the youngsters collected were transported to the recycling center by V.I. National Park personnel.
Three members of the runner-up Pine Peace team, Autumn Orlandini, Emily Whalen and Sage Buchalter, were disappointed they didn't win but said it had been fun collecting trash. "Anyway, we're enjoying Earth Day and the activities in the park," 10-year-old Sage said.
One of environmental awareness exhibitors was Coral Bay chef Kevin O'Donnell, who displayed his meticulously crafted "Driftwood Villages" made from salvaged driftwood and ocean debris. The villages contain replicas of Coral Bay homes.
"I began making one, and before long I began getting requests for more," O'Donnell recalled. "Basically, I take my dinghy off the East End cays and salvage anything I can find. Then I turn it into art. It's a nice little sideline."
Another exhibitor, Steve Flores, also known as "Mexican Steve," displayed what he calls "scrap art." "I've been doing this for 25 years," he said. "There is no better way to re-use old throwaways than making something artistic."
The family of Ken and Beth Edwards, visiting from Vermont, took in the celebration. "We are very much enjoying Earth Day," Beth Edwards said. "In Vermont, we protect our state as you protect your islands – so, environmentally, we have a lot in common."
The highest-profile project Saturday was an island-wide cleanup organized by the Gateway Committee. The Coral Bay crew "all worked on cleaning up Drunk Bay," committee member Bob Hart said. "They had to carry almost a ton of garbage out by hand!"
Hart had special thanks for "Jeannie Piotrowicz and her Jehovah's Witness children, Aubrey Bridgewell and Cub Scout Pack 30, and Paul Jordan and his crew of local ham radio operators." The Public Works assistant commissioner for St. John, Ira Wade, and his crew and Geraldine Smith, executive director of the Anti-Litter and Beautification Commission for St. Thomas-St. John, did their part to make the day a success, too, Hart said.
At the Cruz Bay end of the island, Hart said, "Glenn Speer and the Mongoose Junction volunteers" were hard at work. Bonnie Corbeil made the banner displayed in Cruz Bay Park that read Honor Mother Earth. "We are thankful for the numerous unnamed stars of the clean-up, St. Johnians and tourists," he added.
Nationally, Earth Day has been observed since 1970. In the Virgin Islands, the first celebration was in 1990. VIERS executive director Randy Brown said, "I participated in the first Earth Day celebration in the states, and it's a great tradition to continue."
"We are really pleased with the efforts of all involved, particularly the children who worked so hard for this worthwhile cause," St. John Community Foundation executive director Mary Blazine said. "Several groups have rallied and dedicated future efforts to keeping the islands clean. It's a good recycling precedent."
V.I. National Park Supt. John King had more good news for the environmentally attuned: "Soon, thanks to a grant from the Friends of the National Park, we will have a specialist on island who will assist the park in establishing a recycling framework," he said.
VIERS and Coral World donated the first- and second-place prizes. Joy and Andy Stillman, Friends of the V.I. National Park, and the Audubon Society donated cash.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.