North Shore road gets a makeover

President Obama's stimulus program is helping to pay for almost $5 million worth of road paving, rebuilding, and parking lot improvements along the north shore of the island.

The contractor, Island Roads, has been on the job for almost a year.  The project is expected to continue through October.  It's included paving the gravely parking lot at Peace Hill, overlooking Hawksnest Bay.  That job, however, was reportedly funded by admission fees collected at Trunk Bay.

Stimulus dollars have been largely responsible for roadwork including a new road surface from Trunk to Cruz Bay.  The parking lot behind the National Park Service building is also getting a smooth-over.

The work will also bring some comfort to people who have complained, for years, about the lack of markings on St. John roads.  Plans call for center striping of the new surfaces as well as what are described as 'smooth speed bumps' to slow traffic to 15 miles an hour. (Wait 'til a few taxi drivers hear about this.)

St. John beaches get a free pass

Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 14 and 15, have been declared “Fee Free Days” at Trunk Bay. One of the most visited beaches on St. John Trunk and is home to an underwater trail.

The Secretary of the Department of the Interior has declared thatcAug. 14 and 15 will be “Fee Free” Days. This will include national park sites, wildlife refuges and some Bureau of Land Management sites..

All you wanted to know about lionfish

The BBC has produced an excellent piece about the little devils.  

The thing that worries The Inquiring Iguana is this eating them thing.  "Venomous" says the BBC.  

Is "Eat more Lionfish" a joke?

Lionfish threat to St. John grows

LionfshIf you can't beat 'em, eat 'em.

That seriously, is the government's strategy to reduce the damage the spectacular-looking fish can cause.  And the discovery of lion-fish in waters off St. John is troubling.

Divers from the National Center for Coastal Ocean Science and the National Park Service spotted a six-inch long lionfish earlier this summer, while collecting data about the health of corals, fish and invertebrates.  They captured and killed it.

"Lionfish pose a huge threat to the coral reef ecosystems of the U.S. Virgin Islands. The native fish populations are essentially defenseless in the face of this threat. And once established, lionfish are very difficult to control," noted Rafe Boulon, Chief of Resource Management for the Virgin Islands National Park and the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument.

The first lionfish was captured off St. John in late March.  Since then, baby lionfish have been seen in Lameshure Bay.

"The good news is that the invasive fish happens to be delicious," according to the Environmental News Network (EEN).  So, NOAA is studying lionfish control strategies and has launched an "Eat Lionfish" campaign.  The agency works with chefs, fishermen, and wholesalers to promote the development of a market for these fish.

NOAA scientists have determined that a major fishing effort is required to reduce their numbers and mitigate their impact on reef ecosystems.  Approximately 27 percent of mature lionfish will have to be removed
monthly for one year to reduce its population growth rate to zero, added the EEN.

Christmas (shopping) in July

World class photographer Steve Simonsen says his calendar for 2011 is a "Limited Edition ."

STJ-Cover1d

It may very well be that previous years' have also been limited, but something tells the Inquiring Iguana this one is going to be really collectible.

On Simonsen's Facebook page, he's been experimenting with fine art photography and has some stunning images.  Wouldn't be surprised to see some of the arty-farty in the calendar for 2011.

Janet, the photog's much better half, says she'll ship the calendars in October.Order now so they know how many to print. $23.50 for one, Priority Mail shipping included, two for $42.

You can order the calendar here: web.me.com/ssimonsen/Store/Calendars.html

St. John marina plan underway

Several St. John business people have formed a corporation called Love City Marina. They hope to create a new Virgin Islands marina at Enighed Pond, the commercial port which is used by the island's car ferries.

St. John resident Steve Black announced his intention during this week's Town Meeting about development options for the Cruz Bay waterfront.

Love City Marina In a prepared statement, Black pointed out that, "There is not one place on St. John, where a boater can come in, tie up, to have a meal at a restaurant, do shopping, or do provisioning for their boat," he asked. "St. John offers no services for boaters and this must change."

"While the BVI’s have become successful, we have become known for our neglect of boaters.  Our island’s businesses get nothing from boaters, the Port Authority gets no fees for their coffers, and an entire economy is lost to somewhere else.  Why should St. John be the only island in the Caribbean without a marina?" He added, "We have some engineers and architects to further design this
project.

Block's testimony included submission of a number of artists conceptual drawings and sketches of the possibilities for Cruz Bay development.  You can see them here (courtesy of Black).

Black offered no further details about prospects for a marina, but he had lots of other ideas including:

  • Dedicating the the Customs Parking Lot to ferry pick up and drop off use.
  • Creating sidewalks on both sides of the road from Nature's Nook to Mongoose.
  • Developing a Vendors Village at Enighed Pond to include markets for fish, meat, and vegetables
  • Building an amphitheater that could be used for special events and the St. John Festival/Carnival.
  • Read Steve Black's prepared statement. Click here.

Getting around St. John

The Music Man, Professor Harold Hill, said it clearly: "You gotta know the territory."

Visitors to St. John can get confused easily, but rarely lost. After all, there are only three main roads.  To help, there are a number of maps on the Internet that can be, if not useful, at least worth a look before you step foot on the ferry dock.  Here are links to a few, and some comments.

   
Map1 St-john-map.com

    Produced by anonymous people who claim to have "A combined history of over 30 years on St. John," this is primarily a promotional vehicle for rental villas in Coral Bay.  While it does show streets and bays for the entire island, it's not very detailed or interesting.  This kind of looks like a weekend experiment seeing what could be done with Yahoo Maps.

    Virgin Islands Map

    Virgin islands Map is also promoting businesses on the island, oddly only in Cruz Bay.  There's no detailed map of Coral Bay.  It's also out of date – Chilly Billy's is gone, Grapevine Salon's at the Marketplace now, not Mongoose.  But the map does give you an overview of the kinds of the kinds of businesses there are downtown and roughly where.

    Virgin Islands On-Line Map

    This map is offered by Anthony Finta who runs Virgin-Islands-On-Line. It doesn't show streets, downtown businesses, or much of anything other than the names of the bays.  Which is not a bad thing to have.  You're not going to use this map to go shopping, but it gives you an idea of what the island looks like and where the beaches are.
   
    National Park Service

    The National Park Service's map is the biggest and most detailed we've found.  It shows beaches, ruins, mountains, bays, and more.  It's also quite detailed.  It uses Flash to display and is a little difficult to figure out how to zoom and pull out.  But best of all, the map can be printed.  As such, it's a must to bring with you.

    More maps
        http://www.stjohnusvi.com/map.html
        http://stjohnlinks.com/map.htm

Underwater Webcam on south shore

Lameshur How many people does it take to install an underwater Webcam at Lameshur Bay, along the south shore? The answer is nine teenagers and five teachers from Kent Denver School  in Englewood, Colo.

Teens4Oceans.org, as they're known, use their own funds and donations to do go works to learn about oceans, conservation, and public service. Although, honestly, to read the blog they wrote about their week on St. John, they also learned a lot about snorkeling, hiking, and enjoying beaches.

During their week, they installed a high definition camera inside a glass dome and lights underneath the dock at the Virgin Islands Environmental Research Station.

UnderwatercamIt can turn 360 degrees and is 10 times more sensitive than a human eye, said one of the Colorado teachers. Helping to document the project was world class photographer Steve Simonsen of St. John. He passed along  a short video

Friends of the Virgin islands National Park, the Park itself, and Sadie Sea's Capt. Tom and Gracie helped support the project with donations.

The link to the Webcam's Internet address is http://teens4oceans.org/cam-saint-john.htm.  The picture is supposed to be sent to the Web using the VIERS satellite uplink.   Completing that project, to judge from the blog, took longer than expected and may still not be done. Folks using Macs and Firefox or Safari browsers have had little luck seeing the Webcam, according to a post on Virgin-Islands-On-Line.  Some using Internet Explorer 8 say they've had success.

Thursday’s St. John headlines

Tropical
Wave Conditions Remain Present in the Virgin Islands

US Virgin Islands Launches
National TV Ad Campaign Looking For Visitors


Rare
Coral Sanctuary Discovered in US Virgin Islands


Caneel: Lttle
Known Tropical Get-A-Way


Generous
Donation Made to Virgin Islands National Park

Best beach on St John is …

Nearly 400 people can't be wrong, can they?  
Beach_poll  

One out of four people voting in this week's NewsofStJohn.com poll said Maho is the island's best beach.

In second place, Cinnamon Bay, followed by Hawksnest and Francis Bay.

Write-in votes were cast for Solomon (4), Waterlemon and Vie's (3 each). Perhaps the most telling vote came from a reader who wrote, "Not tellin."