Aug. 2, 2003 – The Lameshur area on St. John was awash Saturday morning with puddles from early morning rains and with more than two dozen eight- to 12-year-old Friends of the V.I. National Park ecocampers exploring mangroves and termite nests.
"Does anyone know what the nest is made of?" asked counselor Katie Winsett.
The answer: A loud chorus of "poop."
Students were later spotted wallowing in the mud as they explored nearby mangroves.
The students were based at the V.I. Environmental Resource Station for the last of four weekend "ecocamps" sponsored by the Friends. They arrived Aug. 1 and will leave Sunday.
"Part of our mission is to educate youth. They're our future," said Friends program manager Emily Burton, who was on hand to assist with the weekend's events.
A total of 27 kids were at the camp this weekend, but Friends development director Kim Lyons said a total of about 100 students from St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John participated in the four summer camps.
The Friends, Texaco Caribbean Inc., Prosser ICC Foundation, Disney Cruise Lines, and the V.I. Agriculture Department funded the camps, which were free for all participants from the Virgin Islands. Interest was the only requirement, and registration was on a first-come basis.
While there were a few of the usual grumbles from students who said they only came because their mothers signed them up, most of the young people seemed to enjoy themselves.
"We're learning about marine life, mangroves and animals," said St. John resident Juma Stevens, 11, adding games to the list of things he liked about the camp.
Of course, there were mosquitoes to contend with, and Autumn Orlandini, 10, of St. John, wasn't too keen on the pesky bugs that swarmed around as she waited for the hike to start.
St. Thomas resident Victoria Burgess, 12, was at the camp for the second time. While she enjoyed the hiking, the swimming, and the nature walks, telling scary stories in the cabin until 10 p.m. was high on her list of likes. "It's really fun," she said, flashing a big smile as she discussed her camping experience.
The campers also got a good dose of the absolute darkness that envelops VIERS when the rain knocked the power out around 4:15 a.m. Saturday. VIERS program manager Scott McCoy pointed out that most of the students hailed from the territory's more urban areas and were unused to such darkness.
"But I only heard a few whimpers," added parent Lisa Etre, who came to chaperone, and then put up her easel for a painting sessions.

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