Nov. 12, 2002 V.I. National Park rangers recently issued three tickets to taxi drivers who don't have permits to operate in the park, Park Superintendent John King said Tuesday.
"There will be more to come," King promised.
He said although U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Moore ruled on Sept. 27 that the park had the right to make taxi drivers get permits, the park waited until after the Nov. 5 election to start giving out tickets.
"I didn't want it to become an election issue," King said.
He said that two of the drivers who got tickets belong to the St. John Taxi Association. The third belongs to the small V.I. Taxi Association wing that operates on St. John.
The tickets will cost the taxi drivers $50 each for their first offense. Those tickets may be mailed in. However, any subsequent offenses will mandate a trip to U.S. District Court on St. Thomas. "They'll have to explain to the judge," King said.
The St. John Taxi Association vowed after Moore's Sept. 27 ruling to appeal. Spokeswoman Lorelei Monsanto could not be reached for comment.
King said that since word got out that the park was giving out tickets, two or three more St. John Taxi Association drivers came in to get their own permits.
While the St. John Taxi Association has adamantly refused to get a blanket permit for all its members, about a dozen of its 60 members got permits on their own. The independent taxi drivers have also complied. The island has a total of 132 taxi drivers and tour operators.
A blanket permit for all the St. John Taxi Association members is $250 a year. Independent drivers pay $75 a year.
The park initially set the fees at $300 for independent drivers and $750 for associations and companies, but in an effort to bring reluctant taxi drivers into compliance, the park lowered the fees.
Taxi drivers taking people from point A to point B pay no fees. Tour operators such as those that conduct hiking tours and day sails have held permits for years, but the park's Commercial Services Plan, mandated by the U.S. Congress, forces all tour operators and taxi drivers to get permits.
Similar rules apply in all national parks.
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