April 16, 2006 – Cruz Delgado stood in a makeshift kitchen on the beach stirring a pot of stewed chicken, which was cooking on a gas stove. It's Easter weekend, and she and her family are doing what they have been doing for more than 30 years: camping at Salt River Beach, also known as Columbus Landing.
"All my children learned to swim here and my grandchildren, too," Delgado said, her arm making a sweeping gesture along the shore. "Three generations of my family, we come here every year."
Children could be seen playing in the surf, and a few kayaks lay by the shore.
Easter camping has been a tradition on St. Croix for generations. Families leave the comforts of home during the four-day holiday and camp out on beaches from east end to west end.
Delgado, who said the annual activity helps her "get away from it all," set up camp a week before Easter and will stay until Easter Monday. Delgado was one of the many residents who attended recent meetings with the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, which outlined new rules for the campsite.
"We usually come earlier, but we waited for the people to have the meeting," Delgado said.
DPNR, which had several meetings with residents who had an interest in camping at Salt River, eventually set up rules for campers to follow. Those rules included no dirt bikes, bicycles or other recreational vehicles on the earthen fort located east of the beach.
The campsite is part of Salt River Bay National Park, where Columbus landed on his voyage to the New World. History tells that Columbus met the Taino Indians when he landed at the site first in 1492 and on a second trip in 1493.
A task force has been meeting for a year to decide on how best to preserve the site and artifacts, which archaeologists discovered in the area. The task force announced March 25 this would be the last year that overnight camping would be allowed (See "Overnight Easter Camping at Salt River Allowed for Last Time").
"I don't know if we are coming back next year," Delgado said. She said many regular campers decided to camp elsewhere this year. "They've gone to Ha'Penny and Cramers Park," Delgado said.
In addition to the makeshift kitchen, the Delgado family set up three tents. They have 10 members of the family enjoying the long weekend at the beach. The campsite is neat, with a large green garbage bag tied to one of the tree limbs. A rake leans against the wooden boards that separate the kitchen from the rest of the camp.
DPNR has placed two port-a-potties on the beach for the convenience of the campers. Delgado said workers come every day to clean the bathrooms and "that is a good thing." "Especially for the children," she said.
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