Aug. 13, 2001 – After more than a year and a half of work, the V.I. National Park has adopted a new Commercial Services Plan, the first ever in its 45-year history.
"I don't think there's any surprises," acting park planner Jim Owens said.
It became necessary to develop the plan because the number of park visitors continues to rise, putting a strain on the its natural and human resources. Paul Thomas, who heads the park's interpretative division, said nowadays more than a million people visit the facility each year.
All businesses operating within the park's borders must now have a commercial permit. The plan sets limits on the number of companies allowed to operate within the park and the number of visits allowed at the locations most popular with visitors. The plan provides for the park administration to issue 110 permits to companies running land and sea day trips. The number is capped at the current levels or increased to allow moderate growth.
Under the new plan, land tour groups of more than a dozen people will be limited to Trunk Bay and Annaberg Plantation. Tours with fewer than 12 people can use other areas only if they have authorization.
At Trunk Bay, only 350 people from all land-tour groups will be allowed at the beach at any one time. Commercial vessels will be limited to 175 people at any one time at beaches. The maximum number of boats carrying 25 to 50 passengers is set at five.
Doug Jayne, who operates two catamarans — one with a capacity for 35 passengers and the other with a capacity for 49 — said the new rules could cause problems for his operation. His destination is often Waterlemon Cay at Leinster Bay, where he sometimes arrives to find more than 175 people on sailboat trips already there. There will be days when "we'll have to go home and return the money," he predicted.
Additionally, Jayne often uses his boats and those owned by other people to take large groups of convention-goers out on an excursion. Under the new rules, any groups of more than 75 people will have to use Trunk Bay unless they get specific permission to use other beaches.
Due to sensitive natural resources and/or insufficient infrastructure, the following beaches and bays are closed to commercial vessel access under the plan: Denis Bay, Jumbie Bay, Francis Bay along the beach only, Mary’s Creek (except for authorized scuba operations and hurricane mooring), Brown Bay, Haulover Bay and all bays on the South Shore without moorings.
The plan also calls for improved transportation within the park. All transportation companies and people providing such services will have to meet performance standards. Taxi drivers will come under their association's permit and do not have to have individual permits. An overview of the plan distributed to the news media by Owens indicates that commercial drivers may have to wear uniforms, undergo training and commit to a standardized presentation.
The park has put off deciding on the future of the Trunk Bay and Cinnamon Bay concessions, now held by Rosewood Hotels and Resorts, until an economic feasibility study is completed. The Rosewood contract expires Dec. 31, but the park administration expects to extend it until mid 2002 or later. Rosewood also operates Caneel Bay Resort, located within the park's boundaries. A preliminary study shows it would not be financially feasible to split the concession up because two separate companies wouldn't make enough money for their operations to be viable.
At Trunk Bay, the gift shop and snack bar concession will now include snorkel gear rental rather than two separate concessions. At Cinnamon Bay, the watersports shop now located on the beach will be moved inland to protect the natural resources. It will continue to operate under the campground concession permit.
Under the plan, effective Sept. 1, rally tours will no longer be authorized. National Park officials cited traffic congestion on roads and in parking areas within the park and said rally events "have the potential to adversely affect the safety and experience of other visitors."
Owens said that some of the new regulations went into effect in July. Some others will take effect in Sept. 1, and yet others will become effective when the park begins its next permitting cycle, on Jan. 1.
The park began the process of creating the Commercial Services Plan in December 1999 with a series of meetings soliciting public input. It followed the meetings up with publication of a draft plan that was circulated for public feedback, and the final plan.
For a more detailed description provided by the National Park Service of the new Commercial Services Plan, see "An overview of the Commercial Services Plan".


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