Happy Fri-YAY everyone! A few weeks ago I started a little series called Love City 101. The goal of this series is to educate the new comers to St. John and give a little refresher to those of you who visit year after year in regards to island etiquette and ways for all of us to work together and take care of St. John and the people who live here. The first post in this series covered some common greetings on island and some protocol to follow while you are having fun around town. This second installment touches on ways to enhance your beach experience while also being courteous to the marine life and other happy beach goers that you are sharing your beach day with!
The biggest beach rule that I can think of that makes a big impact and is often overlooked is “Pack In, Pack Out!” Last year, we had record setting numbers visitor traffic. And with more traffic, unfortunately, comes more trash. But, that’s okay, because there are ways that we can all work together to clean up after ourselves, especially on beach days, in order to lessen our negative impact on this beautiful place and the waters that surround it.
The best thing you can do, as you journey out to your favorite stretch of sand crystal blue waters, is to bring your own trash bags for your waste at the end of your beach day.
Many of our National Park beaches have bins adjacent to them. These are not meant to hold large bags filled with trash. Use these only if you have singular items to dispose of.
The Park Rangers come by only once a day, and usually later in the afternoon. So, if a number of larger groups of people leave the beach late in the day with trash bags overflowing behind them at the bins, there will likely be overflow. Leaving the trash to blow in the wind and into the water or for mongoose and donkeys to dig into. None of this is great for the environment or the health and safety of our land and water dwelling animal friends.
So, when you head out for your next beach day, take some trash bags with you for your own garbage. And maybe grab anything you see left behind by others at the end of the day. Throw the trash bags in the car and take them to one of the public dumpsters around the island:
- “The Love Dumpster”– Head up Centerline road, past Dolphin to the first sharp turn and it is on the left hand side. There is an additional waste bin about a quarter mile up on the right as well if you miss the first one.
- “The School Dumpster” – Go ahead and get your car parked and send one of your comrades with the trash on foot before meeting them at the watering hole of your choice. From the ferry dock, walk towards Woody’s and take a right between the school and Tap & Still. The dumpster is a few hundred feet up on the left.
- “The Pine Peace Bins” – Brand new, lime green, forty foot bins are located on the right, just across the street from EC Service station, and before Pine Peace Mini Mart. You cannot miss these ones! And, there is plenty of space to turn around and zip back to town.
- The Straightaway between Adrian and Gift Hill– Located next to the bus stop and on your left if you are coming from Coral Bay/North Shore cut through.
- Upper Carolina/Bordeaux– Located on Centerline road between the Reef Bay Trailhead and Colombo’s Smoothie Stand
- Love City Mini Mart– Literally right across the street from the centrally located, Coral Bay Mini Mart
Oh, and if you’re feeling extra green, bag your aluminum cans separately and drop them off at the ReSource Depot and island recycling center towards the end of your stay. We do a have a thriving can recycling program on island, courtesy of Island Green Living Association!
Pollution on the beaches doesn’t stop with physical trash however. There has been a lot of talk in recent years about the “noise pollution” at the beaches. I’ll be the first to say that I LOVE music and tend to have a speaker with me every time I go out for a beach day. But, the beach is a shared space, and I try to keep it below a loud roar in order to be courteous to those nearby me who may not share my taste in music. Or, those who would rather simply enjoy the peace and serenity of the beach with out a soundtrack.
If you plan to bring some tunes along on your next day at the beach, please keep your neighbors in mind and turn your musical selection of choice to a respectable level.
It’s actually against the rules of the Park to have amplified music at any level and, if you get overly ambitious with your volume levels, you may get a visit from a friendly ranger accompanied by a ticket and hefty fine. That’s likely a bit more of a damper to your beach day than simply keeping the music at a level that only you and your friends and family can enjoy!
I’ve had a TON of questions about the mask mandate in regards to the beaches and trails. Well, rather than re-invent the wheel, I’m going to share with you the rules exactly how they are stated on the Virgin Islands National Park website.
The mask regulations for VINPS trails, beaches and other spaces are as follows:
All individuals over the age of two, regardless of vaccination status or local community transmission levels, must wear masks in the following outdoor areas when others are present, except when actively eating or drinking, where the superintendent has determined that physical distancing (staying at least six feet apart) cannot reasonably be maintained:
- outdoor areas adjacent to visitor centers and fee booths;
- outdoor areas that attract crowds such as historic ruins;
- parking lots;
- crowded trails, viewpoints, and other areas of interest; and
- open-air pavilions.
Okay, so let’s recap that…
Chilling on the beach with your friends, swimming, snorkeling, having some drinks, etc., you don’t need to have a mask on! If there are bathroom facilities or concessions that you plan to utilize, bring a mask with you and use it as you approach those public areas. IF you are in a crowded parking lot, you might want to throw it on there as well. But, for the majority of your beach day you can remain mask free and avoid that pesky face tan line 🙂
While we are on the subject of rules from the Park, also keep the following two big ones in mind as you pack up for an amazing day on the beach.
- Glass is prohibited on all beaches. It is simply a danger to you, your fellow beach goers and the sea life if it breaks. Opt for cans when it comes to beer, wine or seltzer. Or, re-utilize a plastic water or juice bottle for your booze or wine. Pre-mixing your cocktails in a plastic jug is a great way to avoid glass at the beach and you’ll have ready made drinks all day long. It’s a win win!
- Smoking and vaping is prohibited on all beaches. Smoking is a big no no at the beach as stated by VINPS and could also come with a hefty fine. If you must spark up a stogie, head out to the road or parking area and avoid any congested areas. This unhealthy habit is prohibited on all beaches “or within 50 feet of pavilions, picnic tables or restrooms.”
Now that we have gone over the ON the beach activities, let’s chat a little about the under the sea etiquette that we can all practice to best protect the reefs and our sea faring friends.
I love, love, LOVE the Friends’ of Virgin Islands National Park slogan, “Leave only bubbles!” It is so catchy and sends me out for a snorkel in my mind 🙂 And, it is a great rule of thumb to live by when enjoying a little time under water while you are visiting.
It is oh so tempting to pet that turtle or pick up a conch or a starfish! But, we as humans, impact our underwater environment just with our presence here in the Virgin Islands. The best we can do to limit that impact is to observe and enjoy and avoid touching any of the underwater life as we do so.
And, when it comes to avoiding interaction with marine life, that includes the coral and sea grass. The under the sea flora is the whole reason we have so many turtles and beautiful fish. It is an integral piece of the underwater eco system. And it is threatened and slowly decaying every single day. So, when you are snorkeling, or even just beaching it, watch out where you put your feet. Standing on the coral or sea grass could hurt you as well as the microorganisms within is. Another great Friends slogan that is easy to remember is “Stand only in the sand.” Protect yourself and the coral by keeping that catchy little phrase in the back of your mind while exploring the underwater world.
Oh, and one more thing to protect the underwater world…Use REEF SAFE SUNSCREEN!
I have written several informative articles about how to shop for reef safe sunscreen, what to avoid and the background of the legality of it in the territory. The bottom line is that sunscreen containing any of the Toxic Three O’s is illegal in the US Virgin Islands and it has a horrible impact on the life expectancy of our coral reefs and marine life.
And, these toxic chemicals are not good for your skin either! If you want a bit more info on Reef Safe Sunscreen, take a few moments to explore the following articles:
Once again, I hope all of this isn’t too preachy. That’s not my intent. It is however, important to recognize many of these items as ways to both protect and preserve our marine life AND to ensure that you, and everyone around you, maximizes their happy time on St. John. Our beaches are a shared space for enjoyment of both visitors and residents and an integral piece of the ecosystem for our marine habitat. I hope that this season we can all work together to keep enjoyment levels high for all who are lucky enough to be here to enjoy this beautiful place 🙂