April 18, 2006 – Long-term management plans for V.I. National Park and Coral Reef National Monument are the topics of discussion at a series of public meetings to be held the first week in May.
The meetings kick off May 2 at the Elysian Hotel on St. Thomas. On May 3, the park will hold a meeting at the John's Folly Learning Institute on St. John.
Julius E. Sprauve School on St. John is the site of the May 4 meeting.
All meetings will run from 6 to 8:30 p.m.
"It's a chance to provide input into how things are proposed for the park for the next 10 to 20 years," Rafe Boulon, chief of resource management, said Tuesday.
He said the last general management plan was written in 1983.
The park kicked off its management plan process in 2004 when it held a series of public meetings. The park received more than 800 comments from the public about their concerns and suggestions for the park's future.
"The comments are utilized," Boulon said.
The park has developed five management zones for the park and three for the monument.
The park is divided into a visitor contact and operations zone, a recreation zone, a nature and heritage discovery zone, a resource protection zone, and a backcountry experience zone.
The monument is divided into a marine reserve zone, a natural resource zone for day use and a natural resource zone for overnight use.
The plan also takes a look at Hassel Island.
For each location, the park has several alternatives that include no change from the present, increased use and decreased use.
Boulon anticipated that the park will hear from people who want more trails and more businesses to provide services to visitors. However, he also suggested that the park will hear from people who want the park to remain unchanged.
"But nothing we do can compromise the resources," he said.
One proposed change calls for backcountry use, which is currently not allowed. Boulon said the change would allow a few people at a time to backpack into the park's backcountry for a more remote experience than is now available.
Currently, camping is limited to the park's Cinnamon Bay Campground and the privately-owned Maho Bay Camps.
Boulon said the information collected at the public hearings will be used to write the draft of the management plan. When that document is complete, the public will be given opportunity to comment.
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