Summer Trail Crew wraps up successful season of work in VINP

By ANDREA MILAM St. John Correspondent | Virgin Islands Daily News

Friends of Virgin Islands National Park’s Summer Trail Crew wrapped up a successful six weeks of work in the park last week, with a focus on tasks that ranged from clearing and maintaining the Leinster Bay factory ruins to clearing debris at Hassel Island. The crew’s two days of work at Hassel Island—including clearing around the boat slip and up the marine railroad to the first ruin—was a highlight of the experience, said crew supervisor Taylor White.

The crew of eight and its two youth leaders cleared ruins, worked on trail maintenance, and planted in the Friends nursery. They were treated to trainings and educational opportunities like CPR training with St. John Rescue, native plant identification with Delroy Ital Anthony, and lionfish removal training with CORE. Crew members worked hard and they got to play hard too. Every Friday was a paid recreation day when the members enjoyed activities like kayaking at Maho Bay and scuba diving.

The Summer Trail Crew is more than just a summer job, explained Friends Program Director Mark Gestwicki.

“Ideally, the kids will develop a passion for conservation and pride for their backyard park,” said Gestwicki. “We also hope they’ll look to the Friends for scholarship and employment opportunities, with the long-term goal of creating stewards of the park.”

Summer Trail Crew leader Aaliyah Hodge is one such success story. A 20-year-old resident of St. Thomas, Hodge first joined the crew at age 15. She will be taking over Friends Trails Coordinator White’s duties this coming year as White moves into the School Kids in the Park coordinator position. Hodge said she enjoys the variety of opportunities the Summer Trail Crew has to offer.

“It’s not the same thing over and over,” said Hodge. “The environment is so friendly and I love helping out with the trails. The crew members get to learn a lot, like seeing how trash can affect natural habitats. They learn responsibility as well, like making sure they’re on time.”

Hodge’s fellow crew leader, Eion Roberts, started with the Youth Conservation Corps before joining the Summer Trail Crew in 2021. He said he enjoys working outdoors and learning about the trails and ruins.

In addition to the crew leaders, three crew members returned for their second year this year.

Crew member Tamyra Bartlette said she joined the summer work experience for the first time this year to try something different.

“This is not my usual,” she said. “I like the people because the work is so much better when you’re with everybody else. I am not usually doing outside stuff like hiking, but I actually went hiking on my own with my sister.”

The Summer Trail Crew is open to participants ages 15-19 and was funded this year by the National Parks Foundation. This year’s crew members in addition to Bartlette, Hodge, and Roberts included Omari Mark, Yuli Potter, Kemoi Thomas, Aleja Meade, Jack Oram, Maxim McMahon, and Amya Hodge.

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Learn more about Summer Trail Crew HERE.