Back in the snow and reality after two weeks visiting national parks in the US Caribbean.
Yesterday I wrote about Christiansted National Historic Site in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. We visited two other national parks on St. Croix, Buck Island Reef National Monument, and Salt River Bay National Historical Park. All three need lots of help from friends.
At Christiansted NHS, after the fort, we continued the tour:
2. Steeple Building used to be the original Lutheran church and now a museum – closed
3. Warehouse – closed
4. Custom house and post office from 1751. The signs are fading and the building is closed
5. The Scale House is used as offices, closed to the public. Outside there are exhibits on Alexander Hamilton.
6. Government House, closed.
7. Active Lutheran Church, also closed, though I managed to visit the church during a service.
I met Ranger David J. Goldstein, chief of interpretation for the three parks on St. Croix. I was hoping that a tour would be offered but the parks are underfunded and understaffed.
“My priorities are the children on the island. They don’t know about this place. They don’t know why they’re here,” he said. So no ranger talks for the general public. I sympathized with him.
I was really hoping for a tour of Salt River where Christopher Columbus landed. But there’s only a Volunteer out there two days a week, just on weekdays–wrong time for us. But we got out there on our own after many twists and turns and Lenny’s navigational skills. The picture above is the beach where Columbus landed on his second trip in 1493.
I am outraged at how little help these national park gems are getting. This is not a poor area. We met rich retirees from the mainland with second homes. Many are living here permanently. The upscale restaurants show that there is plenty of money here.
These folks could be volunteers. Where is the Friends group? Almost every national park has a Friends group. This group fund raises for the park, supplies volunteers and in general raises visibility for the park. The parks also need volunteers that will give tours, clean up the trails and do a thousand things that the park staff doesn’t have the resources to do.
Heck, how about just writing a check? Even the Eastern National bookstore wasn’t open this past weekend.
All three units could use a lot of help from the residents. The National Park Service can’t do it all. Even before all the budget cuts and sequestration, the National Park Service was never well-funded. There has to be support from the locals.
And what about the Danes who come to see their country’s heritage? St. Croix is the most Danish of the Virgin Islands. All park pamphlets were in Danish and English. So are the restaurant menus. A mother and daughter came from Denmark to celebrate the mother’s 60th birthday. She had worked as a nanny in St. Croix over 40 years ago. There are Danish tours from November to April. I spoke to several Danes who say that they came for their history. Of course, they help the island’s general economy but none seems to trickle in to the national parks.
Shouldn’t there be a Danish Friends of the St. Croix national parks? Money, time, and effort are needed to refurbish the fort and open up the other buildings.
Even the tourist brochures have very little mention of the national parks. VISITUSVI.COM has an exhibit board in the center of town offering sightseeing suggestions. Visiting the Christiansted fort is only suggested on Day 5, maybe.
I wrote a letter to the St. Croix Avis, their daily paper. But who knows if it will ever see the light of day.
If you’re in the Virgin Islands, visit St. Croix and its national park gems and drop a ten-dollar bill in their donation box.