Park Service reopens St. John's shuttered beaches
Published: October 7, 2013
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V.I. National Park beaches on St. John, which had been closed since Tuesday's shutdown of the federal government, reopened Sunday morning.
"Everyone has been very pleased to hear that the beaches are open within the park," Deputy Superintendent of the National Park on St. John Mike Anderson said Sunday. Once "we got the go-ahead from Washington, we jumped on it."
The beaches that opened Sunday at 9 a.m. and will remain open are Trunk Bay, Cinnamon Bay, Hawksnest, Maho Bay, Leinster Bay, Francis Bay, Salt Pond and Lameshur.
Trails that lead to beaches - the Reef Trail and the Lind Point Trail - also reopened, and concessions at Trunk Bay also resumed Sunday. A lifeguard also was on duty at Trunk Bay, the only one of the park's beaches that uses lifeguards. Lifeguard service there will remain in effect, Anderson said.
The concessions at Cinnamon Bay remain closed for the off-season and will reopen Nov. 1, Anderson said.
In addition, charter boat captains can take trips to the beaches, and the National Park moorings in the bays also are available for boaters to use.
However, the Margaret Hill Trail, Annaberg Plantation and the Cruz Bay Visitor Center will remain closed for the duration of the federal government shutdown, according to Anderson.
"On St. Thomas, Hassel Island trails are closed because we don't have any trails that lead to beaches," Anderson said.
During the week, people had been taking down the barriers Park Service employees had erected at the beaches, according to Anderson.
"We had some of the barricades that were tampered with, and we would fix them early in the day," he said. "Sometimes they would be moved or just thrown aside."
Although the Park Service said people on the beaches could be issued a $50 ticket if they did not leave the beaches when asked, Anderson said no citations were issued.
"We were contacting people during the week and they were cooperative," Anderson said.
The exception to open the beaches came after Park Service lawyers reviewed the enabling legislation that created the V.I. National Park.
"Our solicitor in Washington, D.C., reviewed the enabling legislation for the V.I. National Park and looked at case law and said we could open the beaches, so we jumped on it," Anderson said. "The legislation is not specific as to opening the beaches, but it does talk about bathing and fishing being a customary use of the park."
According to Anderson, 44 of the 54 Park Service employees remain on furlough.