March 25, 2002 – The V.I. National Park is launching a series of open houses on its proposed Vessel Management Plan.
"No decisions have been made" as to the plan's final form, acting park planner Jim Owens says. "It's out for public input."
The first open houses will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. April 1 and from 8 to 10 a.m. April 3, both in the third floor meeting area of the Marketplace shopping center in Cruz Bay. The proposed plan is not yet available for viewing, but will be on April 1 at public libraries, at the park Visitor Center in Cruz Bay and online at the National Park Service and Friends of the V.I. National Park web sites.
The draft plan includes extending the time limit on boats using park waters to 30 days from the present 14. Owens said this is because local boaters have said they want to be able to spend more time in the park, and "we generally have enough moorings to accommodate that use."
The park moorings usually are fully occupied only during the busy winter months and Easter week.
While working on the recently implemented Commercial Services Plan, park officials decided to start charging overnight mooring fees. These will be incorporated into the Vessel Management Plan and will go into effect this spring or summer.
Boats using the park moorings between 5 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. will be charged $15 per day. Daytime use is free. Park officials initially announced plans to charge fees for anchoring, too, but they have dropped that proposal on the grounds that the park doesn't provide any services to boats that anchor.
When the fee program starts, all vessels 60 feet and under using park waters will have to tie up to a mooring if one is available. If none are, the vessels will be allowed to anchor seaward of moorings. Anchoring is not allowed in the park's South Shore waters; there, if all 28 moorings are occupied, other boaters must go elsewhere. The park has a total of 182 moorings available for overnight use; the other 154 are in North Shore bays.
No moorings are suitable for vessels over 60 feet in length, and they therefore must anchor. However, Owens said the Vessel Management Plan includes a proposal to install moorings for vessels of 60 to 75 feet.
The Vessel Management Plan addresses the wake and shoreline problems caused by interisland ferries and other commercial vessels that cut Lind Point too close. The plan proposes that these vessels cut a wide swath around the area, located at the north entrance to the Cruz Bay harbor. It also proposes that such boats be prohibited in other congested or ecologically fragile areas.
Owens said the plan may allow small vessels to let their passengers off right on the shore as locations such as Honeymoon Beach. He said this proposal came about because several daysail captains said they often have passengers aboard who are unable to swim in to shore. "There are safety concerns," Owens said. He said such anchoring will be allowed only in areas with no reefs or seagrass beds.
The park also may move its own fleet of boats from the bulkhead in front of the Visitor Center so that boating visitors can directly access the building. If that happens, Owens said, the park will build a dock on the north side of Cruz Bay, where the park has a ramp.
The Vessel Management Plan also addresses noise, speed and light issues.
Park authorities announced Friday that bid information for contractors who want the job of collecting the mooring fees is available at the Federal Business Opportunities web site.
This information is available only online. If help is needed to navigate the Internet site, call (703) 390-6630. Specific contracting questions should go to the contracting officer, Dianne Mitchell, at (404) 562-3163, ext. 575.
A pre-bid conference is scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday at the Marketplace.
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