CHARLOTTE AMALIE — The USVI on Tuesday created a new territorial parks system that protects more than 30 areas from commercial development and reserves them for activities including hiking and beaching.
Properties that total hundreds of acres were identified in St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas, including Great Salt Pond, Oppenheimer Beach, Cas Cay and Bovoni Cay.
Gov. Albert Bryan also signed legislation that revises a trust fund board whose seven members will be responsible for managing and acquiring land.
The government also expects to implement a Maroon sanctuary zone in St. Croix’s West End to honor the legacy of Caribbean descendants of West African slaves who escaped slavery using guerrilla warfare. The area is home to Maroon Ridge, which served as a refuge for runaway slaves.
“Given growing concerns regarding beach access, environmental degradation and the loss of significant historic and other sensitive sites, all those involved in advancing this measure should be proud,” said U.S. Virgin Islands Sen. Samuel Carrion.
Bryan signed legislation Tuesday that paves the way for the formation of a territorial park system and revamps a Territorial Park System Trust Fund Board, according to a Government House press release. Those steps will allow the territory to manage and acquire land and recreational areas and implement the Maroon Sanctuary Zone on the West End of St. Croix.
During a signing ceremony at Government House on St. Croix Tuesday morning, Governor Bryan also named the first four members to the seven-member Park System Trust Fund Board: Department of Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Jean-Pierre Oriol, Sports, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Calvert White and private-sector members Carlos Tesitor Jr. of St. Croix and Conn Davis II of St. Thomas.
Governor Bryan thanked Senator Samuel Carrion for sponsoring Bills No. 34-0267, which establishes the parks system, and 34-0268, which creates the Park System Trust Fund Board, and for the opportunity to sign legislation that can change the course of the Territory.
“Nothing gives me more pleasure than to set up a parks system that will determine a legacy of preservation for all Virgin Islanders to see in perpetuity,” Governor Bryan said. “There are so many pieces of land in the Virgin Islands, whether St. Thomas, St. John, St. Croix or Water Island, that we want to see preserved in perpetuity. To do that, what we needed to do was create the Territorial Parks System of the Virgin Islands.”
The Governor said the Territorial system is similar to the National Park Service, which has allowed for the preservation of the Caneel Bay Trail, the Christiansted Fort and other landmarks in the Virgin Islands.
The legislation allows the Government of the Virgin Islands to take more than 30 properties and put them into the Territorial Parks System to be reserved for beaching, recreation, hiking trails, nature preserves and parks that will be protected from commercial development.
These areas include:
- Great Salt Pond
- Cramer’s Park
- Parcel No. 5 & 56 Salt River
- Oppenheimer Beach
- Steven Cay
- Cas Cay
- Bovoni Cay
- No. 1 Neltjeberg
- Portion of Water Island at Sprat Bay
- No. 6 & 7 Hassel Island
“One of those places is Maroon Ridge right here on St. Croix. Since the 1980s we have had a set-aside that was by law in order for us to create a preserve and an easement for Crucians and Virgin Islanders alike,” Governor Bryan said. “Earlier this year we took notified the owner that we were implementing a zoning condition established in 1983 for a conservation easement of 1,000 acres for such a preserve.”
Joining Commissioner Oriol and Commissioner White on the oversight commission are Tesitor and Davis.
Tesitor is the president of the Trust for Virgin Islands Lands, a Virgin Islands land preservation and conservation organization and who has experience operating a preservation trust fund.
Davis was appointed for his financial background and experience managing finances, which will be one of the principal roles of the Board, and for the fact that his family has used a preservation easement to donate land on St. Thomas to the Trust for Virgin Islands Lands.