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HomeNewsLocal newsNPS Officials Attending Plaskett’s Town Hall Meeting Give Update on Park Initiatives

NPS Officials Attending Plaskett’s Town Hall Meeting Give Update on Park Initiatives

Chief Ranger Ludric Smith speaks to the audience while concession specialist Paul Jones and Acting Superintendent Penny Del Bene listen. (Source photo by Amy H. Roberts)

Several Virgin Islands National Park officials spoke briefly at the meeting hosted by Delegate Stacey Plaskett on Tuesday. Although they did not weigh in on Plaskett’s proposal, H.R. 3025, which would limit the expansion of the VINP, they did update the audience about several ongoing initiatives.

Penny Del Bene, who has been serving as the VINP’s acting superintendent since Nigel Fields left the job in August, said her tenure would be over at the end of the month.  She thanked St. John residents for welcoming her so warmly and said Deputy Superintendent Scott Simmons will take over as acting superintendent until that position is filled.

Del Bene said construction of the Resource Management and Science complex on Lind Point was nearing completion and is expected to open by the end of February. She said the park was looking for volunteers and interns to work with the park’s collections and archives.

Del Bene also said the environmental clean-up of Caneel Bay will begin in January.  Because of ongoing litigation, she could not comment on the questions of ownership of the Caneel Bay property.

Chief Ranger Ludric Smith said he was actively trying to recruit law enforcement rangers for the Virgin Islands National Park, but finding qualified applicants was proving to be difficult. Although he reached out to 25 criminal justice majors attending the University of the Virgin Islands, only one filled out an application for a job at the Park Service. Meanwhile, interested applicants from off island often change their minds about moving to St. John after learning about the high cost of living.

Paul Jones, a concession specialist with the VINP, said many of the projects to upgrade the park’s facilities were funded by mooring and entrance fees. One of those projects funded by fees — the upgrade to the pier and the dredging in the Creek — is expected to be completed by February.

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