Important Notice, September 2017: Hurricanes Irma and Maria have caused widespread damage in the U.S. Virgin Islands. We look forward to welcoming you back to our islands as soon as we can. Please follow the islands’ rebuilding and recovery on our VInow.com Recovery Blog.
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National Park Update

November 13, 2017 – We are delighted to announce that Hawksnest Beach and Honeymoon Beach are officially open! Vault toilets or port-o-potties are in place. A huge amount of debris was removed from the beaches themselves and park divers removed submerged debris from the swim areas. Even so, continue to be cautious when swimming anywhere in park waters. As you well know, a lot of “stuff” ended up blowing into the water around here!

November 5, 2017 – Virgin Islands National Park maintains over 400 buoys, channel markers, and navigational aids. Many of these were either completely lost or moved off station during the hurricanes. Navigational aids and channel markers are the first priority for re-positioning or replacement and work is underway. Johnsons Reef buoys are being re-positioned early this week. If you are boating in the park, please use caution!

November 1, 2017 – The Los Diablos Fire Crew is here to help with stabilization efforts at the park. The 23-person crew is part of the Big Bend National Park Wildland Fire Program in Texas, with most of the crew members from the Mexican states of Coahuila and Chihuahua. They are assisting with park employee housing and facility stabilization, as well as cutting, clearing and stacking debris from roads, trails and beaches. We appreciate their help and welcome them to the National Parks of the Caribbean.

October 29, 2017 – A big “thanks” to the Arrowhead Hotshots! They are an interagency wildland fire hotshot crew out of Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park in California. They are headed home after assisting us with stabilization efforts, including clearing lots of debris from trails and roads. Thank you for your service.

October 27, 2017 – The National Park Service is looking for the owners of displaced vessels within the boundaries of the Caribbean National Parks.
At this time we have located 180 displaced vessels, with an unknown number that may be submerged. Please contact us at caribbean_recovery@nps.gov.

October 23, 2017 – Stabilization and recovery activities are underway at all the National Parks in the Caribbean. The organizational alignment between the parks has helped tremendously to facilitate the resources needed for the greater good of all parks. A group of San Juan National Historic Site employees with specialized skills such as carpentry, plumbing and electrical are assisting the Virgin Islands National Park. They are helping fellow coworkers with infrastructure stabilization as many structures, including park housing, were severely damaged.

October 20, 2017 – San Juan, Puerto Rico — The Caribbean Parks of the National Park Service are quickly and safely moving forward with stabilization efforts and offering a variety of public access and visitor services.

National Parks of the Caribbean Superintendent Randy Lavasseur said, “We are working hard to open the beautiful parks of the Caribbean, and provide for a safe and enjoyable visitor experience. The stabilization and recovery efforts are ongoing and we are beginning to open areas of the parks as conditions allow.”

The National Park Service Western Incident Management Team, comprised of primarily National Park Service specialists, as well as other Federal employees, is assisting the parks with stabilization efforts. The team is currently stationed at San Juan National Historic Site, although most of the team will soon transition to St. John.

Each of the six National Park Service units in the Caribbean has a branch unit working under the direction of the Western Incident Management Team. The branch units include a variety of supporting positions and expertise.

Other National Park Service specialists are assisting the Caribbean parks as well. A facility assessment team is assessing all park structures and infrastructure, and a Caribbean Hurricane Emergency Rehabilitation Team will arrive this weekend. The rehabilitation team will help develop:

  • Objectives to move parks out of the stabilization phase,
  • Objectives that will transition the parks into recovery,
  • Strategic plan for the recovery with the overarching mission to reopen the parks, and
  • Financial plan for each phase.

The Caribbean Parks include:

  • San Juan National Historic Site,
  • Virgin Islands National Park,
  • Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument,
  • Christiansted National Historic Site,
  • Buck Island Reef National Monument, and
  • Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve.

Several areas of the San Juan National Historic Site are being stabilized and the park is positioned to open once sustainable power is achieved.

The Virgin Islands National Park, Coral Reef National Monument, and the Salt River Bay National Historic Park and Ecological Preserve sustained significant damage and in some areas, total loss. These areas are considered unstable and stabilization work is being conducted. The stabilization objectives for these sites are:

  • Safe housing for park employees,
  • Safe access for employees,
  • Safe work environment for employees,
  • Debris removal, and
  • Submerged structure and shipwreck assessments.

Recovery efforts at Christiansted National Historic Site and Buck Island Reef National Monument are continuing and anticipated to be completed soon. The parks do not have sustainable power, but are planned to partially open next week.

The visitor center at Salt River Bay National Historic Park has been significantly damaged, but stable, with recovery efforts underway. Public access to the visitor center is anticipated to be available in a few weeks.

October 15, 2017 – We are having an extremely wet day here on St. John and at Virgin Islands National Park. We have experienced heavy downpours since last night.  The good news is that more and more people are arriving to assist the park. A big thank you to all of them!!

October 13, 2017 – DOI Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas, Doug Domenech, traveled to St John, VI with members of his team Sat Oct. 12.

Domenech met with Virgin Island National Park’s Chief Ranger, Rick Gupman, and members of the NPS Eastern Incident Management Team (EIMT) about relief and recovery efforts. The park covers roughly 75% of the Island making its recovery a bulk of the recovery effort on St. John.

Most of the damage to the park happened five weeks ago when it was decimated by Hurricane Irma, followed two weeks later by Hurricane Maria. Even though Hurricane Maria passed through the Caribbean without a direct hit to St. John, the devastating winds and rain in the outer bands of the hurricane caused more damage and delayed relief efforts. Access to reliable food, water and power continue. Many of the main roads on St. John run through the park and have been impassable for weeks due to downed trees or wind-blown sand and debris blocking the roadway. Some area roadways suffered washouts from heavy rain and flooding and will be in need of more in-depth repairs. Arrowhead Hotshots have been brought in to clear trees and debris from the roads with chainsaws in order to allow traffic to flow and provide access for more relief resources. Some areas of the park remain inaccessible to the assessment teams and it may be a few weeks before the totality of the damage is completely known.

Damage to the parks infrastructure and cultural resources is still being assessed. However, many buildings have been damaged or destroyed. As a result, many of the parks employees have lost their homes as well as their park offices. Some Virgin Island National Park Employees are being temporarily reassigned to other National Park units in the Continental U.S. Those that remain have been reassigned from their normal duties to support the EIMT and the relief effort, despite their own personal loss of homes and belongings.

October 6, 2017 – Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands Park Units to Remain Closed Friday, October 06, 2017 8:00AM EDT Incident Information: http://go.nps.gov/Hurricanes San Juan, PR. – All National Park Service Units in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands will remain closed. The NPS Eastern Incident Management Team (EIMT) and the Superintendent for the National Parks of the Caribbean reiterate and reinforce the closure of all park units due to continued Hurricane Maria recovery and emergency stabilization efforts. Under the authority granted the National Park Service and the Superintendent under 36 CFR §1.5 – Closures and public use limits, the closure(s) will remain in effect for the foreseeable future. Unsafe and hazardous conditions continue to exist for both the general public and park employees. No date to reopen any areas is known at this time. As local conditions improve the Superintendent will evaluate and open specific areas. Due to the closure all holders of Special Use Permits should consider any current or pending permits to be on hold until the park area re-opens. Permit holders are encouraged to visit https://www.nps.gov/aboutus/news/severe-weather-response.htm for updates to local conditions and progress of stabilization efforts, or visit the individual park unit website.

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