Why there will be more tourists on St. John

New York Magazine's latest choice for its "Weekend Trips" feature is your favorite island.  And with one exception, travel writer Grace Bastidas' recommendations are spot on.

NewyorkIt's unfortunate she's only writing about a two- or three-day stay, but then again, you know how New Yorkers are!  

Here's what she suggests:

Read moreWhy there will be more tourists on St. John

Cinnamon Bay museum closed temporarily

ArcheologyThe Archeology Lab/Museum at Cinnamon Bay is preparing for a facelift.

Bob Schlesinger of Tropical Focus Photography reports all the maps and shells and artifacts are stored in a container which will be moved to a storage spot.

Plans are for the Lab to be renovated, a longtime goal of the Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park. 

"The museum will be designed for teachers to utilize its unique exhibits to help local students learn and explore their heritage, as well as educate visitors about the significant role these islands played in maritime history," the Friends hope.  Read more about the plan.

Archeology_2Meanwhile, Archeologist (and painter!) Ken Wild continues to oversee an excavation a short distance from the shoreline. 

Cinnamon Bay has a long and storied history dating back to the Taino Indians, the first recorded people to establish a village near the beach approximately a thousand years ago. After the discovery of the New World by Columbus, 

More info about archeology at Cinnamon Bay is here.

St. John campers get a parking perk

OK, gang.  What's the biggest issue in Cruz Bay and the beaches?

All together, now …. it's PARKING!

Well, the National Park Service has used some of that stimulus money or the Trunk Bay admission fees to provide 'reserved' parking spaces for folks staying at Cinnamon Bay.

The spots were set to be available late last month but, according to one source, signs designating them were just uncovered and visible.

Tropical Focus photographer Bob Schlesinger (www.vibeachwedding.com) sent this photo.

New parking lot in Paradise

MahoA new parking lot 'come soon' for Maho Bay beach on the north shore, just past Cinnamon Bay.

A National Park Ranger told the St. Source space for 15 to 20 vehicles will be completed in the next couple of months.

Safety is one big reason for the lot.

If you've gone to Maho (Perhaps to watch the pelicans!), you've parked along the left side of the road, or nosed your vehicle into the trees along the right side.

Either way, it's a traffic obstacle.  

Furthermore, some drivers don't show much caution (i.e. slow down) on the straight stretch of road, creating a danger for beachgoers crossing the road or unpacking their beach chairs from the back of their cars.

Parking on the inland side of the road will still be permitted. However, all the vehicle's tires must be off the road surface or Rangers can issue a $50 ticket. Parking on the water side of the road will not be allowed at all.

“Lost” petroglyph found by Park volunteers

Re-discovery of long forgotten petroglyphs along the Reef Bay Trail has given rise to speculation the island was inhabited as far back as 1 AD.

VIIS-Reef Bay Rockart Reflection NPS_0
The 'new' old rock carvings were found by volunteers on a Friends of the Park trek with Ken Wild, the Park's archeologist.  He distributed copies of photographs taken years ago, and told them that if the Taino carvings were found, their style would suggest Native Americans were on the island as much as 500 years earlier than had been assumed.

VIIS-Reef Bay Trail rockart NPS_0
Sue Borger, one of the volunteers, spotted was looking for the rocks she saw in the photograph.  "I could hardly believe it, but those rocks were right in front of me," she later wrote.  Her husband, Darrell, pulled away plant growth on the rocks and shouted, "Here it is. We've got it."

In an e-mail to the National Parks Traveler, Wild said, 'Evidence that the petroglyphs were carved by the Taino Indians has been strongly supported through the designs found on pottery at the Cinnamon Bay and Trunk Bay archaeology excavation along with correlating radiocarbon dates. It also has significant implications regarding Reef Bay and the history of St. John."

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.)

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

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

Wave Conditions Remain Present in the Virgin Islands

US Virgin Islands Launches
National TV Ad Campaign Looking For Visitors

Coral Sanctuary Discovered in US Virgin Islands

Caneel: Lttle
Known Tropical Get-A-Way

Donation Made to Virgin Islands National Park

Swimmers, warm up your engines

Power_swim Capping a busy busy month of activities on the island, the Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park's annual Beach to Beach Power Swim is Sunday.

The race includes four different events, all starting from Maho Bay.  There are short, intermediate, and long courses as well as a three-person relay. The fun begins at 8 a.m.

A new component to this years’ swim is the “Race for a Reason” fund raising challenge. Donations will be used to support the “Learn to Swim” program in the Park along with other projects and programs. Map05

All participants raising $100 or more for Friends get receive a Power Swim hat and the top three fundraisers will receive special gifts following the race at the Beach Party/Awards Celebration at Oppenheimer Beach.

  • Details about the Power Swim event are here