NPS Closes Eastern Entrance to the White Cliffs Trail

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.

Robert Garrison
P.O. Box 394
Henniker, NH 03242

St. John Trails: White Cliffs
White Cliffs Trail


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7 thoughts on “NPS Closes Eastern Entrance to the White Cliffs Trail”

  1. To Whom the VI Parks Concern:

    Unfortunately…Bob Garrison is a rabid libertarian who visits from New Hampshire who has cut-and HERBICIDED- numerous new illegal trails on St John, mostly in the park.
    Virgin Islands National Parks protects over 60 plant species of concern, only two are federally listed.
    It’s taken rangers years to close the trails and protect the WORLD population of a beautiful shrub in the myrtle family–many were killed by Garrison and his cohorts. He cut a few of a federally listed species in another area, but was never caught in the act.
    St. John has some unique and rare species that are worth more than the public’s right to access, to trample through or photograph. If this were the Louvre, this sign is the velvet ropes and you might not be allowed to take a picture. Some things should be protected rather than take a chance, killing the last one and then discover it was a lifesaving medicinal or the cure for aging, Alzheimer or cancer. There are plenty of available trails for the hiking public who want to do more than sit on a beach. In light or our sacred duty and responsibility, we should ignore Mr. Garrison’s well penned letter and continue the good work of protecting species unique to this area and the world.
    Thank you for your serious consideration to this matter – Please, keep the signs in place and heavily fine trespassers who disregard them.
    Don’t let the world be denied a valuable asset to satisfy the curiosity of a few who do not appreciate this rare species. The special interest group in this case is “humanity” and I think most of the “hikers” looking for scenery will understand.


  2. Unfortunately, Harley Laren doesn’t have a clue about what he or she is talking about. (Sounds like a bleeding heart SHE liberal to me. You aren’t an associate of Eleanor Gibney are you?)
    Point #1: where are these NEW, ILLEGAL trails that I am supposed to have cleared on St. John? I have cleared many trails but to the best of my knowledge they were all old Danish roads or trails and not NEW. St John has more than enough old, well built Danish roads and trails and doesn’t need new ones. If you read what the NPS has to say about MAINTAINING old trails (the example they give is an old skidder road) you will find that these old trails may be maintained without going through the exhaustive permitting process that would be required for a NEW trail. My crime was not getting permission, which has been very difficult to get in some cases.
    Point #2: On to HERBICIDE, the “OH MY GOD NOT THAT!” buzz word that Ms Gibney and company seem to pull out every time they want to damn me. I have used herbicide when maintaining a list of trails that was approved by the VINP and nowhere else. I used the same approved herbicides that the NPS and the Friends of the VINP use in maintaining trails and other sites. I obtained the list of the approved herbicides from the head of the Friends of the VINP who told me “If you don’t spray, you are only getting exercise”. If you get out there and maintain a trail or two on St. John for a few years, you will find out he is right. In the past, E. Gibney has charged that I sprayed the vegetation along the White Cliffs Trail. To the best of my knowledge, no one has sprayed anything up there. Put some proof behind your charges. The end of the White Cliffs trail on the Europa Bay end follows an existing herd path (perhaps Gibney and Laren checking their plants?) and the rest follows the old trail. The original route up from Europa Bay is a little further to the west but why not just go up the existing herd path?
    Point#3: The superintendent of a National Park may close an area in the park. There is a formal way this is done, the reasons for the closure must be given and made public. In the case of the closure at Europa Bay, it seem that the signs were put up without the knowledge of the acting superintendent. There seems to be a good guess as to the culprit but at this point it is hearsay. The FOIA request may uncover the truth.
    Point#4: I stand by the points that I made at the end of my FOIA request for information. The goats in the VINP do far more damage to the vegetation that any hiker or machete wielding terrorist. If you have some rare or endangered plants, put wire cages around them. You are not going to get rid of the feral goats and donkeys on St. John. The VINP belongs to ALL the people and not to just the Larens and Gibneys.

  3. On the lighter side, a delightful trail I hiked during my last visit. At the time I was happy I didn’t try to access this trail from the west side, it is well hidden. Next visit, I’ll give it a shot.

  4. The Virgin Islands National Park Environmental Assessment, April 2003 identified “non-native hogs, goats and burros on the island as the major cause of decline for (endangered) plant species.

  5. Quote by Mr. Garrison: “I have cleared many trails but “to the best of my knowledge” they were all old Danish roads or trails and not NEW. ”

    To the best of my knowledge.

    Is it the New Yorker in me or does this sound like a ready cover up for a blatant lie?

    If you are clearing virgin forest without permission or authority, it should not be “to the best of your knowledge” Mr Garrison. You should know what you are doing before you go in destroying plant life.

    As for the goats and wildlife, and the rare plants, they have co-existed for possibly centuries of history without difficulty and so they will continue if they are not exploited by opportunists such as yourself.


    Wild, non-native goats, sheep, donkeys, and hogs cause major damage to park resources. Goat and sheep herds are capable of denuding large areas of all vegetation, including trees (through bark stripping) and cacti. The most fragile forest community—the dry forest in the southeastern portion of the island—may not be able to recover from such damage because it has few plant species and few individuals of those species left. Unfortunately for the dry forest community, goats prefer the steep, semi-barren cliffs that dominate this area. In addition to plant damage, precious topsoil that erodes during grazing travels downslope and degrades coral reefs found in the waters below the cliffs. Herbivory and direct disturbance to vegetation (trampling, crushing, and uprooting) by goats, sheep, wild hogs, and donkeys negatively affect protected plant species within Virgin Islands National Park. Because numerous threatened and endangered plant species have small populations to begin with, even relatively small impacts can have a large detrimental effect on the total floral composition of the island. Non-native grazers consume the two federally listed plant species found on St. John: the St. Thomas prickly-ash and Thomas’ lidflower. They also eat marron bacora, a rare plant found only on St. John…
    National Parks Conservation Association Report 2008

  7. if the Park was serious about protecting the plants they would be thinking about feral goats. The best way to protect them from the far lesser danger of hikers stepping on plants would be to recognize and improve the trail. Then the sign could read, “White Cliffs Trail – Area of rare plants – Please stay on trail.

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