April 21, 2006 – Hundreds of school children, teachers, parents and other folks celebrated the 36th annual Earth Day in the V.I. National Park's ballfield at an event sponsored by the Friends of the Park. About a dozen organizations and individuals were on hand to showcase ways to help take care of the earth.
"The Earth is our mother and we're not doing a very good job of being responsible participants," St. John resident Radha Speer said.
Several school children said they didn't really know what Earth Day was about, but a trio of girls from the St. John Christian Academy was firm with their answers.
"God made everything so people could enjoy it," Shevon Sprauve, 7, said as she, Tracy Powell and Jeminee Jacobs, also 7, colored Earth Day pictures.
Mindy Michtner, busy picking up some V.I. Waste Management Authority coloring books for son Tristan, 2 ½, said it was important to be aware of how residents affect the earth.
"It's important for the children to learn," she said.
Stanley Selengut, who built the eco-friendly Maho Bay Camps and other St. John visitor facilities, said it was important to take care of the earth because "it's where we live."
Selengut was busy chatting with St. John resident Gary Ray, who had a selection of native plants on hand so he could promote using them instead of imported species in landscaping.
Ray said the island's plants are now infested with scale that arrived on plants coming to the territory. He said this is a new problem. "Ten years ago many of these pests were not here."
Turning over a leaf to demonstrate, he said a product called Volk Oil will get rid of the problem. He said the oil is available at local hardware stores.
"It's nontoxic and doesn't allow the critter to cling. And it suffocates the critter," he said.
Ray also said that the coqui frog came in on palm trees after Hurricane Hugo in 1989. However, he said it hasn't "naturalized" because it needs more water than most areas of St. John can supply.
V.I. National Park ranger Deanna Somerville was showing a group of students how they could turn something like a pill bottle that would ordinarily be thrown out into something useful.
"We're making first aid kits," she said, distributing cotton balls, adhesive bandages, safety pins and more to the children.
Louis Petersen, district supervisor at the University of the Virgin Islands Cooperative Extension Service, was on hand to show students how to compost. He said it was particularly important not to put materials that can be turned into compost into the territory's landfills because they were running out of space.
Friends of the Park development director Karen Brady said she was thrilled at the turnout. She said the group had tried several approaches to get children involved in environmental education.
"The kids are having a good time and learning something," she said.
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