May 12, 2005 – Over a dozen officials gathered at the visitor's center at Salt River Bay Historical Park and Ecological Preserve to assess what progress has been made at the park and what needs to be done to make it a valuable resource for the people of St. Croix and their visitors.
This was the third in a series of meetings spearheaded by Sen. President Lorraine Berry. The first was at the park on March 24. (See "Salt River Bay Visit Sparks Anger and Hope"). The second took place at her office in Frederiksted.
Joel Tutein, V.I. National Park supervisor, said, "With each meeting we bring more stakeholders on board."
The list of those brought on board to help develop the park that started with 241 acres in 1992 and now encompasses over 1,000 acres is long. It includes, besides legislators and park officials, officials from the Department of Tourism and the Department of Planning and Natural Resources. The people from DPNR taking part include Bill Tilden, curator of Fort Frederik and Myron Jackson, director of the State Historic Preservation office. Some community members taking part in the discussions are Megan Shoenfelt, executive director of St. Croix Environmental Association: Ann Abramson, businesswoman, Benjamin Rivera, executive director, Chamber of Commerce; and Alex Moorhead, vice president at Hovensa.
Lt. Kevin Reed, represented the U.S. Coast Guard, in discussions Thursday about removing abandoned boats from the bay.
Although that removal is going to be costly and is only in the early planning stages, officials noted that some cleanup has already been accomplished since March 24.
An unsightly trash container has been removed from the site where one of the earliest forts in the Caribbean stood. Also two local businesses teamed up to remove three burnt out vehicles from the area. The businesses involved were Virgin Kayak and Seaborne Airlines.
One of the next projects is to have two large signs, four feet by eight feet, installed in the park. One will be an informational sign and the other will detail punishment of people who violate park rules. The signs will be put up as a community effort. Abramson is in charge of raising funds to pay for them and a series of smaller signs. The group decided to set a Media Day at the park on May 27 and hopes to have the signs installed by then.
Major improvements to the park may take more time.
As the meeting broke up at about 1 p.m. several officials gathered on the veranda that wraps around the visitor center and offers a clear view of the five acres at the point of the bay in the central part of the park. Jackson and Tilden shook their heads as they watched as car drove over the only documented site of a Taino ball court in the Virgin Islands.(See "Archaeologist Finds Reason to Reinterpret V.I. History").
According to Tutein access by vehicles to that area will be blocked.
However, he added, that was not about to happen until other parking was established in the area. Plans are to widen the narrow road leading into the point and adding spaces for about 75 parked cars along the road and then block off the point.
The area does get visits from tourists. (There was a tourist van on the scene Thursday.) However, most of the park use is by residents who pull their cars right up under the sea grapes near the beach. It is one of the popular camping areas during the Easter season.
Also discussed during the meeting was the hiring of two rangers to enforce rules at the park. Anne Golden, a spokesperson for Berry, said what the group was looking at was getting the V.I. Senate to approve two $37,000-a-year positions.
Circulated at the meeting was a recently produced 15-page field report and assessment by National Park archaeologist Meredith Hardy.
A thirty-two-page land protection plan prepared by park officials shortly after the initial purchase of land in the area was also distributed at the meeting.
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