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On Island Profile: Rafe Boulon

June 20, 2005 – Rafe Boulon, chief of resource management at V.I. National Park, just might be the envy of many St. John residents. He has a great job and had the good fortune to have great-grandparents who bought land at Trunk Bay way back when — 1927 to be exact.
Boulon, 52, and his wife of 26 years, Kimberly, still live at Trunk Bay in a cozy house sitting up on the hill overlooking the sea.
He pretty much grew up at Trunk Bay. Born at the old Municipal Hospital on St. Thomas, with the late Dr. Roy Anduze in attendance, Boulon lived at Trunk Bay until he was five. His family then moved to Puerto Rico because they sold their land and home to Laurence Rockefeller for inclusion in the national park.
The family subsequently moved to St. Thomas. However they spent weekends, holidays and summers — during their Puerto Rico and St. Thomas years — at Trunk Bay in the house they built in 1960 on the three beachfront acres they kept. The house is called Windswept and continues to be used by Boulon family members on vacation.
Boulon describes it as an idyllic childhood. He said he and the late John Gibney, who lived nearby at Hawksnest Bay, would roam the island sans shoes. Carrying sheets for a cover and empty rum bottles to gather water, they slept in old ruins or on the beach.
"It was very safe. My parents didn't worry about it at all," he said.
He recalled one instance when he and Gibney awoke in the middle of the night to feel land crabs tugging off their sheets.
And he remembers swimming in Cruz Bay, a place he said was a lot dirtier than it is now, probably from leaking septic tanks along the shoreline. Indeed, he said he got the skin infection impetigo every summer.
After attending All Saints School on St. Thomas, he went off to the Hoosac School, a boarding school in Hoosick Falls, N.Y.
"I had never seen snow before or experienced winter," he said.
One year at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., was followed by a bachelor's degree in marine and environmental science from the College of the Virgin Islands, now the University of the Virgin Islands.
"Then I took a year off and sailed and worked on boats," Boulon said.
He went off to the University of Puerto Rico to get a master's degree in marine and environmental science. While at UPR, he worked on the ecology of deep coral reefs and took a turn in the hydrolab at Salt River on St. Croix.
"The night before I saturated, I proposed to Kimberly," he said, using a diving term.
The two had met while Boulon was a student at UPR.
Afterward they came home to St. John.
In 1981 Boulon got a job with the Fish and Wildlife Division of the Department of Conservation and Cultural Affairs, which later became the Planning and Natural Resources Department. Boulon stayed there until 1999 when he went to work for the national park.
Along the way, the Boulons had two children — Devon, a 23-year-old professional windsurfer; and Revel, now 20. Boulon said Revel is working towards his master's certificate while working onboard a 108-foot private motor yacht named Dorothea.
Boulon, who rides his motorcycle to work every day past the massive homes going up at exclusive Peter Bay, said he is amazed at what's become of St. John.
"It's overwhelming – land prices have skyrocketed, the number of people and the traffic jams," he said.
He said if it weren't for the national park, every beach would have a major resort and the hillsides would be filled with condos.
He said his job helps protect what is left undeveloped.
"I really like feeling like I'm doing something positive for St. John," he said.
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