The Creation of the Virgin Islands National Park on St. John
The United States of America purchased the Danish West Indies from Denmark in 1917. Right from the beginning of American ownership of the islands, there was talk in official circles of creating a National Park in the area.
In 1936, the National Park Service, recognizing St. John’s immense beauty, historical significance and potential for recreational development, conducted an official appraisal of the island. In spite of these factors, the conclusion was that St. John did not qualify for Park status. The reasons for the decision were that the island was no longer in its natural state after so many years of intense sugar cane cultivation, and that St. John was not in need of National Park protection as there was no pressure towards commercial development at that time.
In 1939, the National Park Service made a second assessment of St. John. This time the conclusion was to make the entire island a national park. However, with United States attention focused on the coming Second World War, the St. John National Park proposal faded into obscurity.
In the early 1950s St. John experienced a spurt in tourism and related commercial development and the National Park Service renewed their interest in establishing a park in St. John.
Laurance Rockefeller, along with the Rockefeller family and associates founded the Jackson Hole Preserve Corporation, a non-profit conservation and educational organization. He acquired more than 5,000 acres of land on St. John, which were eventually donated to the Federal government.
On August 2, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed Public Law 925 establishing the Virgin Islands National Park in “a portion of the Virgin Islands of the United States containing outstanding scenic and other features of national significance”.
On December 1, 1956, the Virgin Islands National Park was dedicated and became the twenty ninth National Park in the United States as “a sanctuary wherein natural beauty, wildlife, and historic objects will be conserved unimpaired for the enjoyment of the people and generations yet unborn”.
In 1962, the Virgin Island national Park added another 5,000 acres of the adjacent submerged land and waters, and from time to time the Park has acquired additional lands through donation or purchase.
Today the Virgin Island National Park in St. John offers a variety of activities and educational programs and maintains hiking trails, historical areas and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.