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New Superintendent, Changes at V.I. National Park

New V.I. National Park Superintendent Brion FitzGerald (Gettysburg Times photo).Changes are afoot at V.I. National Park. A new superintendent will arrive in March and Resource Management Chief Rafe Boulon, a longtime V.I. fixture in environmental science, is the latest in a handful of park employees to retire this year.

The previous superintendent, Mark Hardgrove, retired in August. And park rangers Denise Georges and Delita Roberts, who worked on the park’s contracting department, both retired within the last six months, Boulon said.

The new superintendent is Brion FitzGerald, currently deputy superintendent and chief ranger at Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania. He could not be reached for comment, but his appointment this week was confirmed Friday by Boulon and Hardgrove. No one could be reached at the National Park Service’s southeast regional office because it was closed.

According to the Gettysburg Times, FitzGerald worked 34 years for the National Park Service, including the last 18 at Gettysburg.

Boulon, 60, is retiring Dec. 28 after nearly a dozen years at his post. He previously worked for 18 years at the Planning and Natural Resources Department’s Fish and Wildlife Division.

A graduate of what was then the College of the Virgin Islands with a bachelor’s degree in marine science, he received a master’s degree in marine and environmental science from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez before joining the V.I. government.Rafe Boulon

There were several high points in his career at the park.

“The land acquisitions at Maho Bay, Nanny Point and Concordia,” he said, adding parcels at Hawksnest and Beverhoudtsburg to the list of properties added to the park.

He said that the additional parcels added increased the size of the park by about 8 percent. Boulon added that without controlling the land, the park can’t protect the resources.

Additionally, Boulon was instrumental in establishing the hurricane mooring program at Hurricane Hole in Coral Reef National Monument. The monument is managed by the park staff.

“It was a lot of work, but it was very rewarding,” he said.

As for the low points, he said that the park’s chronic lack of funding meant that staff couldn’t be replaced when they left and park operations suffered.

Boulon oversees a staff of 10. He said that the post of acting resource management chief will rotate among the staff until a permanent replacement is named.

While Boulon may not have to show up every day for work, he expects to keep a hand in by consulting and doing tours for the Friends of the Park and for private companies.

Former V.I. National Park Superintendent Mark Hardgrove, who retired in August.In his free time, he wants to build the second floor on his house and visit his sons. Devin, 30, is married to Tammy, living in San Diego and the father of Braydon, age 19 months. Another baby is due in April. Son Revel, 28, is the engineer on a 60-meter yacht now in St. Bart’s.

“And I’m thinking of writing a book about growing up on St. John,” he said.

After he retired, Hardgrove moved to Puerto Rico to be with his wife, Milagros Flores.

He worked 42 years for the National Park Service, serving on St. John from 2007 to August.

Hardgrove said Friday he viewed his five years at the park, which included overseeing the largest land acquisition in the park since its inception, expanding the storm mooring system and improving communication with the public, as the highlight of his career. He also said that he reconstruction of North Shore Road and creating accessible trails were two major accomplishments under his tenure.

“And I am proud of our volunteer program and the park trails that receive the benefits of thousands of volunteer hours led by the Friends of the Park,” Hardgrove said. “I am proud of the partnerships and relationships I enjoyed and feel good that the park is better than I found it.”

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