Jan. 5, 2006 –The St. Croix Environmental Association is celebrating 20 years of keeping development on the Big Island environmentally responsible. The public is invited Sunday for a rainforest hike, a tour of V.I. Sustainable Farm Institute and a cookout at Mt. Victory Camp. Participants can come for all or part of the day.
Carol Cramer-Burke, SEA executive director, started with the organization in the early '90s and was one of three longtime members who recently talked about the organization. She said, "I truly believe that SEA plays a critical role in the environmental protection on our island. Our programs have reached thousands of young people and influenced their education choices, personal habits and the way in which they see their island home. Now we are beginning to see some of these youngsters graduate from universities with public policy and environmental science degrees — they are the future of St. Croix."
Dan Odell, a member of SEA since the early '90s and a retired St. Croix teacher, is the present education officer for SEA. He echoed many of Cramer-Burke's sentiments.
"I think SEA needs to continue in the same direction it has been going. If we have new developments going in, they have to be sustainable so the Virgin Islands continues to be a beautiful place," Odell said.
He said he has experienced SEA successes many times over recent years. He cited a plan for a rocket factory in the Great Pond area, noting that SEA challenged the developer, making sure that all environmental safeguards were in place. He said the developer evidently was not prepared to do everything necessary to safeguard the environment and pulled out.
He said, "We have had some close calls," adding that the Salt River Bay area was almost developed, but SEA was instrumental in helping it become the park it is now. He added that he and Cramer-Burke were part of the group who planted mangroves to help re-invigorate the bay after the destruction of Hurricane Hugo.
He also pointed out that when a couple of philanthropists had the vision of Southgate as a bird sanctuary, SEA was there to become the steward to help that vision become a reality — one that will benefit Crucians for generations to come.
Robins Sterns is a teacher at the University of the Virgin Islands. She said, "I was a board member back in the early '90s, and SEA has come so far from those days when we crammed around a little table in that old, crumbling office in downtown Christiansted. At the time, Carol Cramer-Burke was already active with V.I. ReLeaf, but protecting Jack's and Isaac's bays was just a dream. Southgate wasn't even a dream yet, and neither was the Environmental Learning Lab."
As for the future of the organization Sterns said, "I hope SEA will continue to strengthen its position as a key voice in environmental decisions being made about our island at the same time we educate our children — and leaders — about the fragile resources we need to preserve."
Cramer-Burke continued along those lines. She said, "SEA is part of the checks-and-balances system that informs the community of issues of importance and takes the difficult road when local and/or federal laws are violated. It's not about 'Should there be development on St. Croix?' It's about how development should happen on St. Croix."
She emphasized that SEA stands for two things: compliance with local and federal laws and the community being involved in deciding the future of the island.
She added, "I firmly believe that St. Croix is a very special place that has the potential to be a true tropical paradise destination. Eco-tourism, cultural heritage tourism and agro-tourism should be a major part of our image. Developing St. Croix to look like St. Thomas would be turning our backs on the unique ecological and cultural resources that make our island a special place."
Hikers will assemble in the parking lot at Mt. Victory, Creque Dam Road, at 12:30 p.m. Those not wishing to hike can drive to the Sustainable Farm Institute for the 2 p.m. tour.
The cookout is scheduled to begin around 3:30 p.m. Jamesie, King of Scratch, and his All-Stars, sponsored by Team San Martin at RE/MAX St. Croix, will provide the entertainment.
For information, call SEA at 773-1989, or visit its Web site.
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