After nearly four years of planning, construction has begun for projects totaling $27 million on 2.8 acres on Lind Point within Virgin Islands National Park, according to Park Superintendent Nigel Fields.
The funding is one of the largest single investments ever made by the National Park Service to the VINP, Fields said.
In early January, J. Benton Construction, LLC, a Virgin Islands company, began site preparation and demolition of the hurricane-ravaged Biosphere Reserve Center at Lind Point.
Fields said the park has made provisions to keep the trails open and has designated a new parking area for hikers heading from Lind Point to Honeymoon Beach, Cruz Bay, and Caneel Hill.
Plans call for the construction of a new science and resource management center, employee housing, and a facility to contain the park’s artifacts and archives on the north side of Lind Point. Construction is expected to take between 18 and 24 months, Fields said.
The project was originally presented to the public and members of the St. John Committee of Coastal Zone Management at a Zoom meeting in August 2020.
Since the project was approved in 2020, construction costs have escalated, but Fields said, “We’ve been able to maintain the key functions and square footage by re-engineering and cutting some costs.” The new construction will total about 15,000 square feet.
Lind Point is part of a hill overlooking Cruz Bay and the Northshore of St. John, a site that could be very exposed if a hurricane came from the northwest, as Hurricane Irma did. However, Fields said the buildings will be one-story tall and are designed to resist winds of more than 200 mph.
The structural integrity is particularly important for the building containing the park’s archaeology lab, archives, and collection of artifacts. “We have confidence in our ability to maintain them here instead of preserving them off-island,” Fields said.
Many of the park’s artifacts were housed in the old Danish warehouse in Cinnamon Bay until that historic structure was destroyed by Hurricane Irma. (The artifacts were removed prior to the storm.) Once construction is completed, the collection of artifacts will be put on display and open to the public at Lind Point. They are now being stored at the Marketplace in Cruz Bay.
Plans for the development also call for the construction of a building for the Division of Resource Management and a dive locker to store equipment. This facility will serve the park’s dive team and others that come to the park to assist with projects and research.
“Having a dedicated space for them will be incredibly helpful,” said Fields.
The third main component of the development is a complex of new housing units totaling about 6,000 square feet
Plans call for the construction of one 3-bedroom unit, one 2-bedroom unit, a multiplex containing six bedrooms that can be divided into units of various sizes.
As the construction of the new buildings continues, J. Benton Construction is also undertaking the repair of ten units of park housing on the south side of Lind Point. Fields said that staff members who lived in those units have moved to temporary quarters on St. Thomas. The repairs to the southside housing units should be completed by April or May, he said.
As bulldozers work their way around the construction site, Fields wants to assure the public that measures have been taken to reduce runoff.
“We’ve given a lot of thought to preventing erosion,” he said.