27 Miles of Trails Cleared!

Can you believe it is December? Neither can we! These days the sun shines brightly and a cool breeze steadily blows from the east, making it a wonderfully comfortable temperature. The sentiment around town is positive - the 2017 hurricane season is officially over! Although most everything on St. John is in a state of repair, green leaves cover disjointed branches fully and the colors of the island are vibrant. Incredibly, all of our park's 27 miles of trails are open! The beaches Honeymoon, Hawksnest, Cinnamon and Trunk have all been serviced by the park, and are clear of debris in the water and accessways as well. 

Our emergency trail crew of 4 men and 1 woman began work under the supervision of our trail coordinator Mark Gestwicki in early November. Since then they have cleared L'Esperance, Maria Hope Trail, and Bordeaux, all of which had serious tree fall with very large trees down. Now they are going back to improve trail tread, drainage, repairing any masonry structures caused by tree fall, heavy rains, etc. To the left is a before and after shot of their work along the Maria Hope trail. Quite impressive! Currently, they are working on Lindt Point and Caneel Hill which have large debris from (relatively) nearby Lindt Point housing. Next up the Francis Bay walking trail and revisiting trails with spurs that need to be re-established. 

Along side our trail crew, the National Park disaster relief team has done their share of impressive work as well. Acting Park Superintendent Darrell Echols joined our board meeting to share park news and progress with us directly and answer any questions. He explained the 3-stage approach to disaster relief (assessment, stabilization and recovery) but added that VI National Park was exceptional in every way, and truly challenging. Over the past three months he and his colleagues from National Parks around the nation have worked in relay fashion picking up projects and passing the baton to the next relief crew. At one point 200 NPS employees were on island working to help assess and stabilize the park. The Army Corps of Engineers has also been working with NPS to remove road debris from the park.

Unfortunately, 12 of our VINP park staff were displaced by the storm. Out of the 22 park houses, 6 were totally destroyed and 13 were badly damaged. NPS will need to repair and restore housing for staff before they can return to work. Additionally, park offices and research labs were damaged. On December 16th the last of the incident crew will leave and our park will enter into the 3rd phase of restoration - recovery. NPS will be working to get water back on at Cinnamon and Trunk so that the concessionaire there can prepare to repair and open back up. Vessel removal, infastructure repairs and other big projects have been submitted to congress for approval.
We are really grateful for everyone's hard work in getting our park to the state it is now. Looking forward to sharing more positive updates soon! 

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