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St. John Trails: White Cliffs

White Cliffs Trail

Virgin Islands National Park Service Closes White Cliffs TrailBob Garrison’s email concerning the closure of the White Cliffs Trail and 325 acres of the St. John National Park to the public
by Bob Garrison (aka The Trail Bandit)

There is more to the story behind the closure of this area than is being told by the Park Service. The people behind getting this area declared OFF LIMITS are none other than the dynamic duo of Eleanor Gibney and Gary Ray. Eleanor Gibney has a long history on St. John of trying to keep her special places hidden from the rest of us. One comment of hers that I have always liked is ”There are places where people should not go” except her and her friends of course. It seems that Gibney and Ray have been able to secure the White Cliffs as their own private place. Now that they have one place secured, I will bet that there will be others.

The Park Service did note in passing that an effort will be made to get Eugenia Earhartii listed on the federal endangered species list. What they should have told us is that Eugenia Earhartii is not on any endangered species list except the one in the minds of Gibney and Ray. Perhaps the plant should be renamed Eugenia Eleanorii which in English would be Eleanor’s Stopper. That sounds appropriate to me. Gary Ray has other ideas about how to claim more areas to protect without actually having to go there. This would help with Ms. Gibney’s idea of “places where people should not go.”

Gary says:
“Drones could be particularly useful in tropical forests where much of the vegetation and wildlife is hidden from view or hard to survey due to the geography. A drone can fly over large areas of forest, hover over interesting bits, spot wildlife movement, or observe illegal deforestation in real-time to alert authorities. The environmental uses of drones is limited only by the imagination and field needs of the researcher. In the Virgin Islands, endangered species surveys are underway to identify species like Eugenia earhartii, an endemic plant only found on steep, rocky and treacherous slopes. Remote drones could be employed to easily access habitats where the plant might exist thus saving research time and surveyor energy to locate and map the rare species”

Eugenia Earhartii Eugenia Earhartii
Here are a couple of photos of Eugenia earhartii from the illustrious Doctor Gary Ray

Perhaps he has something like the Predator in mind so that the various areas could be watched and any intruders could be eliminated. When the US finally gets itself out of the mess in Afghanistan, these aircraft could be made available to the ever expanding enforcement arm of the VINP.

Another thing that was mentioned by Gerald is that the trail along the White Cliffs is not new. It was used by workers in the 1800s to get back and forth between Europa Bay and Reef Bay. It is a historic trail and not, as the NPS claims a new, illegal trail.

This recently closed area and much of the dry forest area along the south shore of St. John is the home to herds of feral goats. Goats will eat anything and when food supplies get low, they eat everything. Closing this area to a few hikers who want to hike along this beautiful trail will do nothing to save any plant or prevent damage to the soil. The goats are the real culprits. Goats typically move into areas where people don’t go. Perhaps the signs should read “Please stay on the trail to protect rare plants”. This park was created to save the area for the enjoyment of all the people and future generations. It was not created for the sole enjoyment of the team of Gibney, Ray and company.

It is your park. Help fight to keep it open to all.

See St. John source article

St. John Live Music Schedule, Thursday January 31

Banana Deck
Steel Pan by Lemuel Samuels
6:00 – 9:00
693-5055

Barefoot Cowboy Lounge
Erin Hart
7:00 – 9:00
201-1236

Castaways
Get Right Band
10:00
777-3316

High Tide
Inner Vision
8:00 – 11:00
714-6169

Inn at Tamarind Court
Get Right Band
5:30
776 6378

Miss Lucy’s
Jazz with Rich and Greg
6:00 – 9:00
693-5354

Morgan’s Mango
Mark Wallace
6:00 – 9:30
693-8141

Ocean Grill
Chris Carsel
6:30 – 9:00
693-3304

Rhumblines
Erin Hart
7:00 – 10:00

Skinny Legs
Lauren Jones Magnie
6:00
779 4982

Spyglass
James Milne
5:00 – 8:00
776-1100

See Weekly Schedule

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Eugenia Earhartii

Eugenia Earhartii

Virgin Islands National Park closes access to 325 acres on the south side of St. John
In reaction to the illegal improvement of an old Danish Road that ran above the White Cliffs and its connection to one of the many goat trails found in the vicinity of Europa Bay, the Virgin Islands National Park has closed public access to 325 acres on the south side of St. John. The trail in question, known as the White Cliffs Trail, runs through an area of the park that is the habitat of Eugenia Earhartii, which the NPS maintains would be endangered by hikers using the trail.

Eugenia Earhartii or more commonly know as Earhart’s Stopper is a shrub in the genus Eugenia (stopper) which contains 1000 species and belongs to the family of the Myrtaceae (Myrtle Family). Its duration is perennial which means it will grow year after year. Its floral region is The Virgin Islands.

See St. John source article

Read Bob Garrison’s response to the trail closure

St. John Weather
Overcast with rain showers
High of 81 degrees F
Breezy: Winds from the ENE at 10 to 20 mph
Chance of rain 30%
Sunrise: 6:52 AM AST – Sunset: 6:12 PM AST
Water Temperature (Charlotte Amalie Harbor, St. Thomas) 82.9 degrees F

St. John Live Music Schedule – January 30

Aqua Bistro
Rascio on Steel Pan
6:00 – 8:00
776-5336

Castaways
Flip Flop Rock
8:00
777-3316

Coconut Coast
St. John Flutes
5:30 -7:00
776-6944

Cruz Bay Prime
Sambacombo
7:00 – 10:00
693 -8000

High Tide
Lemuel Callwood Steel Pan
4:00 – 6:00
714-6169

Shipwreck Landing
Chris Carsel
6:30 – 9:30

Skinny Legs
Get Right Band
6:00
779-4982

Sun Dog Cafe
Wednesday Night Jam
Lauren & Mark Wallce
7:30-10:30
244-9713

See Weekly Schedule

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National Park officials have placed a sign at the Europa Bay entrance to the popular White Cliffs Trail.

In response hiking trail advocate, Bob Garrison, has sent the following letter requesting specific information under the freedom of information act concerning the trail closure:

Dear Sirs,
I recently noticed that part of the Virgin Islands National Park on St. John has been closed to the public. The sign indicating this closure is located near Europa Bay and I have attached a copy of a photo taken recently. There do not seem to be any boundary markings to show what area is closed, other than this one sign.

Under the Freedom of Information Act,

1. What are the boundaries of the closed area? If the boundaries are not marked, an accurate map with GPS coordinates of the corners or a .GPX track file of the boundary is requested.

2. What species of rare plants are being protected by this closure? Are these plants on the endangered species list?

3. Who requested that this area be closed?

4. Is this a permanent or a temporary closure?

The area near Europa Bay is one of the most spectacular areas in the VINP. There are a large number of beautiful wild orchids that grow in the area and flower this time of year. The area is one of the more remote parts of the VINP and not visited by many people but there are quite a number of feral goats that live on the steep hillsides and live off the vegetation in the area. These goats cause far more damage to all the plants in the area than a few people walking through the area and enjoying their National Park. There seems to be an ongoing effort on the part of the VINP to corral visitors on a few main beaches and trails. I suppose this is convenient for the NPS, but National Parks were created so that people can enjoy beautiful areas and that these areas be protected for the enjoyment of future generations. Visitors both present and future cannot enjoy a National Park area that is closed to all but a few. There is more to the VINP than sitting on a beach with hundreds of other tourists. Many of us like to explore the more remote sections of the park and enjoy the beautiful scenery, including the plants that grow there. All the US National Parks belong to all the people and not to any special interest group.

If there are rare or endangered plants in Virgin Islands National Park, it would be far better to put a wire mesh (Think chicken wire or stronger steel mesh) fence around the few rare plants than to close the area to visitors. This would protect the plants from the goats and allow visitors to enjoy viewing the plants in their natural surroundings instead of looking at a picture in a book. Again, National Parks belong to all the people and not to any special interest group.

Sincerely,
Robert Garrison
P.O. Box 394
Henniker, NH 03242
rgarrison@mcttelecom.com
603-938-2529

St. John Trails: White Cliffs

White Cliffs Trail

 

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St. John Trails: White Cliffs

View of White Cliffs from the trail

St. John Trail Map: White Cliffs

White Cliffs Trail

Yesterday I hiked one of my all time favorite trails, the White Cliffs. As this is an unofficial trail within the National Park, it is not maintained by park personnel. This is a beautiful trail with outstanding views and provides an interesting alternative route to Reef Bay as well as really cool and challenging loop using the Lameshur Bay Trail for your return to the trailhead .

I wanted to see the condition of the trail after last summer’s collection of severe weather events. The trail was still in fairly good condition and in most parts easily followed. Of course a Trail Bandit map or even better a Trail Bandit map loaded GPS will always be a good friend.

It looks like as log as some hikers continue to use the trail on a somewhat regular basis, it will remain open, even better if you were to bring along a small clippers to cut back the unfriendly catch and keep, which appears from time to time along the trail.

The Route
The White Cliffs Trail begins at the Lameshur Bay Trail. Walk along the flats past the big old tamarind tree that looks like it was split in half by lightning some many years ago. You’ll pass the entrance to the Europa Point Trail, which to my pleasant surprise is now marked by a trail sign. Shortly after the Lameshur Bay Trail begins to rise, you’ll come to the Europa Bay Trail, which you’ll follow past a beautiful salt pond and on to the Europa Bay Beach.

Walk along the beach almost to the point at the end where you’ll find a narrow trail leading into the bush. This steep trail will take you to the ridge top from where there are some excellent views down into the Europa Bay Salt Pond, the Europa Bay Beach and onward to the east and south.

From the ridge, you can also walk out to the eastern point for views of the southern coastline of St. John out to Ram Head Point.

The trail leads through the forest on the ridge top eventually taking you through a guinea grass covered passage through some large rocks. After passing this the trail runs right along the edge of ridge with constant dramatic views of the coastline below.

The trail descends into the eastern portion of the rocky beach at Reef Bay.

To get to the Lameshur Bay Trail from here, walk west on the beach for as far as you can. At some point you’ll need to either get wet or head into the lowlands and make your way through the mangroves either back to the beach from where you can easily access the short trail to the Reef bay Sugar Factory ruins or inland to the Horsemill area of the ruins,

Then its a 1.1 mile easy going hike up the relatively flat section of the Reef Bay Trail to the more difficult 1.8 mile Lameshur Bay Trail, with it initial hill climb back to the starting point.

Challenging, but lots of fun. Let’s keep this trail open…

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Brought to you by Gerald Singer, St. John US Virgin Islands (USVI)