Good Morning all! And a Happy Wednesday to you. I want to ask you an important question to start this out….Why do you visit St. John? Why do you love it? Chances are that somewhere in that LONG list of reasons why this place is so near and dear to our hearts is…You guessed it: The Ocean. Once I moved to St. John, I knew immediately that I could never live away from the water again. It calls us home. It nourishes our bodies, minds and spirits. It is a true reset button from the hustle and bustle of life. Joy is an understatement. But, when is the last time that we gave back to this thing that gives us happiness and brings us to life? Well, if you can’t remember the last time that you did, next week is a perfect way to celebrate the sea and give some love back!
Next week is Friends of Virgin Islands National Park Ocean Week, inspired by Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup (ICC). Each year, ICC is dedicated to “gathering” individuals from around the globe in serving Mother Nature and the sea. An organized ocean cleanup that has gone viral, ICC inspires individuals to organize and clean up the beaches and waterways in their home cities, states and countries.
In partnership with volunteer organizations and individuals around the globe, the International Coastal Cleanup™(ICC) engages people to remove trash from the world’s beaches and waterways. Thanks to volunteers around the world, the ICC has become a beacon of hope, leading and inspiring action in support of our ocean. Since its beginning, over 16 million volunteers have collected more than 340 million pounds of trash. – OceanConservancy.org
In the spirit of joining in this movement, Friends VINP has organized Ocean Week activities to focuses on issues and actions related to marine conservation and trash cleanup on St. John for a week every October. This year Ocean Week runs from October 18-23 and includes a series of four virtual seminars covering topics like turtle protection, island recycling, coral conservation, and fishes found in our waters, in addition to coordinated beach cleanups.
“Ocean Week gives us the opportunity to engage our members and community in helping nurture and protect our coastal environment,” says Tonia Lovejoy, Executive Director, Friends of Virgin Islands National Park. “Last week, Fourth Graders from Gifft Hill School got a head start on Ocean Week and picked up trash at Trunk Beach which was inspiring and exciting to see. Our thanks to these young environmental guardians for their hard work in helping keep our beaches clean.”
It’s absolutely fantastic to see the kiddos taking the reigns on protecting our seas, right? 🙂
This year, Friends and their volunteers will head out to Drunk Bay on Saturday, October 23 to clean up the beach! If you are on St. John, this is a great way to connect with residents and visitors, passionate about their marine environment and give a little time back to the place that you love. The meeting point is the Salt Pond parking lot at 9AM on that morning. Friends will provide gloves and bags. Bring water, reef-safe sunscreen and maybe your beach bags to enjoy an afternoon at Salt Pond after the clean up!
If you are interested in dedicating some time during that week to a different beach, dividing and conquering is always a great idea! The Friends gift shop is now located at the NPS visitor center (moved from Mongoose Junction) and the local non-profit will be providing gloves and bags clean-ups all week long.
To register your clean up, on St. John or elsewhere, and get involved in the global movement, visit Ocean Conservancy’s Connect and Collect site.
Another way to show your devotion to the ocean is to educate yourself! And you can do that from anywhere in the world as well. This year’s Friends Ocean Week Seminars will be held virtually and will magically transport you to St. John and the issues surrounding our marine life.
Remember that fish that you saw that one time while you were snorkeling? You can’t, for the life of you figure out what it was. Well, on Friday, October 22, you can join Lee Richter, Marine Biological Science Technician, NPS, on an underwater scavenger hunt where you’ll learn how to identify some of the island’s coolest cryptic fish species, and discover how and where to find them.
Do you love sea turtles? (I know, that’s a dumb question. HA!) On Tuesday, October 19, join Adren Anderson and Willow Melamet, VINP Sea Turtle Monitoring and Protection Program Coordinators, and learn about the life of a turtle who calls St. John home. The turtle population on St. John has been busily growing this year and this seminar should be a very interesting one as the presenters share their expertise about our favorite under the sea, and born on the beach, friends!
Additionally, the following seminars will take place during Ocean Week. For all of the presentations, you can join virtually by registering on the Friends websites with the corresponding links from this post.
- Noon- Wednesday, October 20: Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle presented by Kelly Lawson, Executive Director, Island Green Living Association.
- Thursday, October 21: Initiatives that Support Seagrass Meadows and Coral Reefs in the USVI presented by Danielle Olive, Fisheries Biologist I and Victoria Beasley, Wildlife Biologist II DFW-DPNR.
So, Ocean Week is an important time to rally and pick up St. John and educate ourselves about the sea life that surround this beautiful island. But, it doesn’t have to be Ocean Week in order to kick in a few hours towards beautification while you are visiting St. John. Get Trashed St. John is a local volunteer-based organization that hosts a coordinated beach, trail or town clean up each month. Follow them on Facebook to find out if there is a clean up going on while you are visiting next!
Crush some cans and volunteer with Island Green Living Association. A great way to wrap up your next amazing vacation is to take all of your cans from the week up to the recycling center and crush them yourself. YES! We do have aluminum can recycling on St. John 🙂 And, the local non-profit has a thrift store on site as well. So, instead of buying a Styrofoam cooler and tossing it at the end of your week, spend that little extra on something that will hold up and donate it when you drop off your cans. They will accept gently used beach chairs and pool floats as well!
You could also organize your own beach clean up while you are on island. Headed to Cinnamon for the day? Or Francis? Take some bags and gloves with you and take a walk up and down the beach at the end of the day. You never know, maybe you’ll inspire someone else to join you and make a new friend…Or get a free drink! Any day of the year, Friends VINP provides gloves and bags at their gift shop at the NPS Visitor Center. So, swing by and grab some of those, and maybe some swag (!) before you hit the beach. And always remember, pack it in, pack it out. Bring your trash back to town and drop it in one of the dumpsters instead of leaving it at the trash bins at the beach.
Oh, and one more thing….Ready to head out to the Cinnamon Bay Campground? How does “stay for free” sound? Well, the Friends are also launching their VINP Trail Cleanup Program and, in exchange for your time, you can stay at their campsite at Cinnamon for free! Check their site to enroll or for more information on this voluntourism program that puts you right on the beach for your next stay on St. John.