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Cruz Bay
Tuesday, March 21, 2023


July 22, 2001 – More than 75 irate St. John residents gathered Saturday morning to protest a Cruz Bay post office expansion plan that they say threatens two very old trees on the site next to the post office — a lignum vitae and a date palm.
According to a Friday release from St. John Administrator Julien Harley, an agreement has been reached for the Postal Service to expand the the office into the adjacent space on a three-year temporary basis.
"The government should table all temporary plans and seek permanent solutions to the problem," Lonnie Willis, one of the protest organizers, said.
According to the release from Harley, the post office expansion will include creating a courtyard around the lignum vitae tree. The Tourism office that had been on the site has been relocated to the Morris F. DeCastro Clinic, it said.
"The lignum vitae tree was planted in 1900 and is estimated to have a life expectancy of 400 years," Willis said. The date palm was transplanted there "in 1993 by a group of residents to save it from destruction at a construction site."
Aubrey Bridgewater, special assistant to Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd, said Liburd, a St. John resident, telephoned Gov. Charles W. Turnbull Friday afternoon and "requested a freeze on all plans for postal expansion until a public hearing on the matter can be held."
Andrew Rutnik, commissioner of Licensing and Consumer Affairs and also a St. John resident, questioned whether it would be possible to expand the post office without damaging the trees. "I don't see how you can even begin pruning these trees without effecting their life expectancy," he said.
Douglas White, a St. John architect, said the existing post office building was poorly designed and is inadequate to serve increasing Postal Service demands.
Rutnik said the building is owned by the Public Works Department, and the Postal Service leases it from the V.I. government, along with the land extending to the DeCastro Clinic and including the old Tourism office site. The lease has 58 years remaining.
Citing parking problems and long waiting lines at the current post office site, John Levering said that management of the Marketplace complex, "even as a temporary solution … has offered space and adjoining land" for Postal Service use.
"Destroying the park for temporary solutions is not the answer," protester Elsa Angel said. "There are better solutions." Moving package service and distribution outside of Cruz Bay was one that she suggested.
"The bottom line is that the Postal Service and the government should work on solutions with the community to solve our common problems," Willis said.
Following a symbolic tree chaining at the disputed site, the protesters filed through the streets of Cruz Bay displaying placards and voicing their message, "Save the trees!"

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