This past Independence Day, I had the privilege of spending some of my two-week vacation camping on Lovango Cay located west of St. John. I can't begin to explain how relaxing my vacation was and how important these little outdoor trips are for spending time with my 6-year-old son, who also resides on the mainland.
Unfortunately, I must write about an incident which happened on my family's previous camping trip and how Virgin Islanders need to cover every aspect of the proposed Comprehensive Land and Water Use Plan for it to be in the best interest of all Virgin Islanders, while also moving forward with a Territorial Park System.
When my family was camping, prior to our July trip to Lovango Cay, a person driving an all-terrain vehicle drove down from the hillside onto the beach area where the kids were playing on the beachfront. The individual made some remarks to the kids that they must remain on the beach, because the rest of the island was "private property." This individual did not have the courage to greet the adults, whose campsite was several feet away. After the brief encounter with the kids on the beach, the person sped the ATV along the beach leaving tire tracks. He then turned around and sped back up the hill.
When we talked about this incident during our Independence Day camping trip, I could not believe that ATVs or any type of vehicle could be driven on a beach, considering the sensitivity of this environment. With many no trespassing signs several feet from the beach, our family has respected the landowner's property rights while camping, and have always set up campsite just a few feet from the shoreline cleaning all non-organic garbage before the trip is over. The beach faces north and there is no visible development on this side of the island.
The new Comprehensive Land and Water Use Plan should put more emphasis on our surrounding islands and cays. Subchapter IV in the plan addresses some of these issues, but more attention is needed. From helicopters landing on beaches of these cays, to ATVs not being regulated, to eyesore signs being erected, more laws must be enacted and enforcement must be beefed up. The lure of owning your own island or secluded resort is a real estate and developer attractant. Stricter laws and regulations have the potential to promote that the Virgin Islands are more interested in preserving and sharing the natural beauty of our islands and cays, rather than developing them. This can also promote the push for a Territorial Park System which would benefit all Virgin Islanders, especially our future generations.
Lastly, as the Virgin Islands have made encouraging steps toward preserving our environment by expanding marine protected areas and designating areas such as Magens Bay a nature preserve and wildlife refuge, we have a lot more work to do. In the early 1900s Florida began its creation of a state park system. According to the Florida State Parks information Web site, by 1972 there were over 10 million visitors. By 1995, visitation topped 12 million, a major part of the Florida economy. On a smaller scale, if we work diligently and create dialogue with the many landowners, especially those of offshore cays and coastline areas, this is possible for the Virgin Islands and will benefit all. With the possible development of sensitive areas such as Botany Bay, Hans Lollick, Great Pond and many more, I believe we can do much more to plan our future, with a Territorial Park System and a new Comprehensive Land and Water Use Plan being major players. Dont let our islands and cays be overdeveloped: Then everyone loses!
Gene C. Brin Jr.
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