A recent relationship with the territory’s Labor Department has allowed V.I. National Park to hire local veterans, park Superintendent Brion FitzGerald said Sunday at the annual Friends of the Park meeting.
The meeting was held at Cinnamon Bay Campground’s T’ree Lizards Restaurant.
“It’s been a wonderful experience,” FitzGerald said.
He said that the park’s enabling legislation has a section that permits the park to hire local veterans without going through the federal recruiting process that is used for park jobs.
FitzGerald said three jobs were filled by former or current members of the V.I. National Guard and a fourth is in the works. They are in the automotive, water and wastewater systems, maintenance, and fee collection sections.
While hiring these workers is a help, FitzGerald said, he said the park has other vacancies that need filling.
And he and Friends President Joe Kessler said the Friends and the park continue to depend on volunteers to fill needs.
“Last year, 580 volunteers committed 10,700 hours in volunteer service. These volunteers helped improve the visitor experience at Annaberg, improved trails and cleared bush around ruins, worked in the Friends of the Park Store, led seminars, helped with Friends events and assisted in the office,” Kessler said.
Kessler and FitzGerald handed out awards to those who qualified by the number of hours they volunteered for the President’s Volunteer Service Awards given by the White House.
Winter resident Kent Savel got a silver award given to those who volunteer 250 to 499 hours a year. Bronze awards went to those who volunteered 100 to 249 hours. They went to Anne Frick, Bill Fisk, Weldon Wasson, Mike Buchholz, Judy Buchholz, Terry Lichty, Deb Sims, Pat Lodge, and Paula Savel.
Park Ranger Corrine Fenner received a Friends’ partnership award for her work as the park’s volunteer coordinator.
Theresa Pierno, president of the National Parks Conservation Association, was the keynote speaker. While her remarks touched on the organization’s efforts, she said attention needs to be paid to the areas that surround national parks because they have an impact on the parks.
“As long as I have air, we’re not going to have Summers End Marina and the other marina in Coral Bay,” she said, referring to the proposed Sirius Resort and Marina.
Speaking about other Conservation Association successes, she warned the 100 people at the meeting that the developers will never give up. She said the organization fought 20 years against a proposed landfill that would have abutted California’s Joshua Tree National Park on three sides.
“We finally stopped that landfill,” she said.
While she was speaking about efforts nationally to raise money to help parks, she pointed out that this park has a $12 million maintenance deficit.
Cinnamon Bay Campground is one place with huge maintenance issues, but it’s up to concessionaire Caneel Bay Resort to make repairs. However, FitzGerald said the National Park Service is just about through the process of awarding a new concession for the campground and the Trunk Bay snack shack. He said it should be awarded in June.
According to FitzGerald, the new concession holder will be required to tear down the Cinnamon Bay cottages and rebuild them on the same footprint. It will also have to replace the tents and replace or repair the tent platforms.
That won’t come soon enough for some campers who attended the meeting to complain about myriad issues including the bathroom conditions. While FitzGerald said the bathrooms are not on the list of things to be replaced by the new concession holder, he said he expects improvements.
FitzGerald said the park has taken up the issue with the current concession holder, but because the agreement is decades old, it has no teeth. He said the new concession agreement gives the park plenty of teeth in making sure maintenance happens.
“I will be safe in saying the maintenance of the bathrooms will be improved,” FitzGerald said.
More information on the Conservation Association is online at www.npca.org. The Friends are online at www.friendsvinp.org and the park at www.nps.gov/viis.