In a nutshell, the National Park Service here on St. John is not happy but in a way, their hands are tied.
News of St. John recently spoke with Bryon FitzGerald. He’s the Superintendent of the National Park Service (NPS) here on St. John. FitzGerald started this position in March of this year. That’s when one of his staff members notified him about what was going on over at Denis Bay.
“What we found out back in March was that a bunch of trees had been cut down on what I would call the upper curve,” FitzGerald said. “At that point in time, we didn’t know with any level of certainty if they were on our property or not. We then went to identify if they were on our property or not. We believe that it is on our property but we do not have any definitive proof yet.”
Because the exact National park boundaries are in question, FitzGerald said NPS is having the property surveyed. He said that the property owner, Tony Ingrao, is also entitled to have the property surveyed. FitzGerald said that the NPS is also planning to have an ecologist survey the area. Once NPS determines the exact boundaries and the extent of the damage, they plan to work with Ingrao to mitigate the damage.
News of St. John has reached out to Ingrao on several occasions. He has yet to respond to telephone and email messages left with his office. Ingrao did, however, tell FitzGerald that he planned to work with NPS to mitigate the damage.
“He has told me that he will do whatever we ask him to do to mitigate whatever damages he needs to do to fix the damage to park property,” FitzGerald said.
Once the surveys are completed, NPS will ask Ingrao to replant trees, add soil to stabilize the ground and the banks, and plant ground cover to prevent further erosion from damaging the parkland.
As of right now, FitzGerald said, “there is no question that the dirt is coming down into the park.”
So how exactly did the bulk of the damage occur?
Ingrao installed two gabion baskets, which are steel structures filled with several tons of rocks and soil. They’re typically used in road building and for erosion control. Well there was one week back in May that had two days of pretty heavy rain. During that second rainfall, one of the gabion baskets gave away. FitzGerald said the basket, which contained soil and large rocks, slid down and took out National Park trees. At that time, FitzGerald met with Ingrao’s on-site representatives.
“At that time, a chunk of road was undercut so there was a huge amount of dirt that was still in danger of falling into the park,” FitzGerald said. He then met with a director of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources. “Between the two of us, we said you’re done. We said you’re finished here unless you can get in here safely and remove this dirt safety from the overhang, so it doesn’t get into the park”
“At that point, they knew they needed a retaining wall. I said as long as the wall is on the road and not park property, I have no complaints. They needed to dig down to get stability to make road. I again said fine, but said when you are done, I need you to cover dirt so it doesn’t wash down into park. They dug down and they covered dirt with the cloth. That’s still there today. They did plant the upper curve area to stabilize the upper portion until they get pavement. They have stopped work.”
(News of St. John witnessed numerous workers at the job site earlier this week, however, all appeared to be working on the home only.)
Now there is the question of permits. FitzGerald said he has requested to see a copy of the permits but as of yet, he has not been able to obtain one. One main issue he has in terms of what happening is that the NPS is not the permitting authority. The Department of Public Works and the Department of Planning and Natural Resources are. The three organizations are currently working together, FitzGerald said.
“The Park Service is not the permitting authority and we are working with DPW and DPNR,” FitzGerald said. “Now going forward, what should happen is when a permit is issued on property that goes through National Park Service property, we would certainly like to be notified.”
Again, FitzGerald said NPS has stopped any further damage from occurring within the park and that the damage assessment will take some time to complete. What he does know is that the damage is extensive. He estimated it to be roughly three football fields wide and deep.
Click here to see images and a video of the damage.
Click here to read about the fines Ingrao received.
9 thoughts on “NPS’s Response to What’s Happening in Denis Bay”
Thank you so much for doing this investigation. I am sick about the damage this owner and builder did to our park.
Keep up the pressure. They can’t ignor this if you keep shining a light on it. One has to wonder why all of this is happening this month when the events of March and May resulted in no action.
The construction company had to know what they were doing was illegal. The only real way to stop this kind of thing from happening in the future is to make an example of everyone involved in this crime. It’s a sad fact that the fine imposed here was just a calculated risk by the homeowner.
Most of these developers have figured out long ago that it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than it is for permission. This guy needs to get hammered as a message to those who come after him. This is a small, fragile island and the response needs to be swift and loud.
Thanks for the follow up. Let’s hope everything gets repaired quickly and properly and that it is closely monitored so it doesn’t happen again
Anything built on NPS lands should be forfeited to the NPS. Maybe they just built the park a nice new Nature Center or ranger office!
Let’s ask an uncomfortable question. Where was FitzGerald when all this was coming to fruition? Are there not permits to apply for prior to any construction and why isn’t he privy to application’s on the NP boarder? (I did read the article.)
The island is not that big! Is he so busy NOT overseeing the details? How often does he actually set foot on the island? Doesn’t matter how new he is to the JOB! Excuses, excuses….
Don’t focus on the what if’s! Focus on who is accountable for not doing their JOB from the get go!!! Oh, that’s right…. GOVERNMENT
Sounds so familiar: NPS vs DPW vs DPNR – no one’s working together or on the same page. Same thing is happening (and has been for years) over property line disputes on Bordeaux Mtn Rd/ Bordeaux Heights. Each defer to the other: nice way of saying ‘not my job’ and pointing the finger to someone else. I’ll second the comments here: keep the pressure. FitzGerald has his work cut out for him.
I hope all of you calling for this guy’s head are just as offended by those of us locals who leave abandoned cars on our properties to leach oil into the ghuts, allow garbage to tumbleweed down our roads and shamelessly discharge sewage from our boats directly into VINP waters….because those are the real threats to the park. Not some rich guy who will probably contribute more to the tax base than any of us for a single house that will be landscaped to the nines in a few short months.