Wow, what a firestorm yesterday. The Senate President stated the VI National Park’s name would be changed. A meeting on the matter was announced for last night. Then it was cancelled. Then it was back on. Goodness, it was so hard to stay on top of this matter especially considering that we were flying above the Atlantic Ocean when most of this took place.
Here’s the latest… The meeting was in fact held. Prior to the meeting. Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett released a statement. Here it is in its entirety:
WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett, a Member of the House Committee on Agriculture and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, released the following statement on the status of National Parks in the Caribbean:
“I have been very disappointed by the disinformation circulated concerning the National Park. There will be no changes to the parks’ names or legal authorities. The superintendents of each Caribbean park (St. Croix, St. John and San Juan) will now report to a group superintendent stationed in the Caribbean. I understand this adjustment will push decision making closer to the field. We have received numerous reports from residents, National Park employees and other stakeholders concerning the relationship with the Virgin Islands National Park system and its community. We are supportive of changes which bring accountability closer to the people of the Virgin Islands.
“It is my understanding that recent management review of all National parks in the Caribbean was completed in 2017. The review team found that each of the parks could be run more efficiently by sharing resources and expertise. I further understand that the decision to realign was based on feedback received from management, employees, and stakeholders at each park during the review. This change realigns the reporting structure of the three park managers. Three park managers — located at St. Croix, St. John and San Juan — now report to the Caribbean Parks Superintendent. It is my understanding that one of the Virgin Islands’ park managers was first offered the position and declined and as the second person offered was the San Juan manager. The San Juan park manager position is currently vacant. The three park managers will report to a Caribbean Parks Superintendent, and that superintendent reports to the Regional Director. The realignment mirrors similar models in the National Park Service, like the Outer Banks Group (NC) and National Parks of New York Harbor.
“I understand that the community has asked the new Caribbean Parks Superintendent to meet with the community on St. John. Because of information which has been circulating in the community, I have asked the Southeast Regional Director to come and speak directly to the community about this and other issues concerning our parks. And I have asked that he ensure the attendance of all the park managers and superintendents. As Congress recesses on July 28, I intend to be at the meeting which we have agreed to take place on August 3 on St. John and ask all local stakeholders and the press to be there.
“Again, there will be no change to the park’s name or legal authority. Our Virgin Islands National Parks have been a great resource and pride to us as Virgin Islanders but truthfully not always the Parks have not always been the best partner with our community. I am working hard to ensure that the relationship is equitable.”
And here is the statement sent to us from the Virgin Islands National Park:
“Each Caribbean unit of the National Park Service is significant to America’s natural and cultural heritage. The NPS recently finalized a management review, which found that by pooling services, we could more effectively protect and preserve these national treasures. A more closely defined working relationship between the Caribbean parks could open access to resources and expertise while strengthening park operations.
“Effective July 2017, the management of Christiansted National Historic Site, Buck Island Reef National Monument, Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve, Virgin Islands National Park, Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument, and San Juan National Historic Site will now report to a Caribbean Parks Superintendent stationed in the Caribbean.
“The realignment means that the parks are shifting HR reporting lines and that park employees will have greater access to resources and support to do their jobs. Each park still has a unit manager who maintains local control, and these managers will now report to a group Superintendent in the Caribbean. This model pushes more critical decision-making to the Caribbean, instead of to Atlanta 1,500 miles away. Similar park groups are found in New York, Arizona, and North Carolina.
There will be no changes to the parks’ names or legal authorities. The term “Caribbean Parks” has been coined for internal administrative purposes.
“We appreciate your ongoing support of your national parks and invite you to contact us with any questions.”
There you have it folks. Enjoy your Friday.