Jan. 28, 2004 – Maryland resident Gary Van Hoven was perplexed. He was trying to do the right thing and pay his $15 per night fee for mooring in V.I. National Park waters, but he just couldn't locate the pay station supposed to be somewhere on the beach at Hawksnest Bay.
"I've been up and down the beach," he told park Superintendent Art Frederick and chief ranger Steve Clark as they toured the park on Wednesday with a group of reporters aboard their boat.
Unbeknownst to Van Hoven, the park is the midst of fine tuning its recently initiated mooring fee program. On Dec. 1, the park began charging boaters to use its 186 moorings spread throughout park waters. Boaters using moorings between 5 p.m. and 7 a.m. must pay the fee. Day use is free.
Park officials are moving pay stations that proved difficult to use, including the one at Hawksnest Bay, and also are allowing boaters to pay for multiple-night stays at multiple bays all at one time. Initially, boaters had been required to make separate payments for each night, which meant they had to go ashore and find the pay station.
"We've been making modifications so it's more user friendly," Frederick said. He said he anticipates it will take about a year of tweaking for park officials to come up with the system that's easiest for boaters to use.
Frederick said he asked boaters using the park dock near the Cruz Bay Visitor Center how to make the program work better. He said the boaters told him they came to go sailing in the Virgin Islands in order to relax, and that it is too much trouble to go ashore to hunt for the pay station at every bay where they spend a night.
On Wednesday park personnel were installing a pay station at the head of the Visitor Center dock. Boaters will be able to pay there for as many nights as they wish.
Frederick said the Hawksnest Bay pay station was removed because swells undercut the sand around it, making it unusable. Boaters using Hawksnest Bay may use the pay station at the Visitor Center dock or at Caneel Bay, he said.
The pay station on the beach at Maho Bay Camps will be moved to Francis Bay Beach to make it more easily accessible to more boaters.
The Leinster Bay pay station, now located near where the path to Leinster Bay heads east from the Annaberg Plantation parking lot, will be moved to the beach area south of Leinster Point. The reason for this move is that the bay waters often are too rough to bring a dinghy ashore by the current location.
When the water is rough, boaters are encouraged to use any of the dockside pay stations — at the Cruz Bay Visitor Center, Caneel Bay and Great Lameshur Bay.
The pay stations are pipe safes in which boaters deposit their payments in envelopes provided by the park. The safes are located next to bulletin boards with information about their use and about the particular bay. Most bays now have "bay hosts" — liveaboard boaters knowledgeable about the park and mooring operations — to provide further information. (See "Night mooring fee, bay hosts coming to park".)
Frederick said the money collected goes to pay for maintaining the moorings as well as to fund other park projects. The park gets to keep 80 percent of the collections, with the remainder going to the National Park Service coffers for use within the National Park system.
The moorings were installed to protect the fragile sea floor and coral reefs from anchor damage.
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