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HomeNewsArchivesVIERS: CAMPING WITH AN ENVIRONMENTAL CAUSE

VIERS: CAMPING WITH AN ENVIRONMENTAL CAUSE

Nov. 3, 2001 – When the V.I. Environmental Resource Station set up shop back in 1966, the trip to its base at remote Lameshur Bay on St. John's south shore was one long, arduous trip. Not much has changed in that regard, but the facility itself has altered direction and ambience over the years.
On Nov. 1, VIERS celebrated its 35th anniversary.
Until 1997, VIERS was operated by the College, later the University, of the Virgin Islands, a long-distance effort that met with varying degrees of success over the decades. Four years ago, after VIERS nearly closed due to funding shortages, UVI turned its operation over to Clean Islands International, a not-for-profit environmental and educational organization based in Maryland.
"Over the years research has continued, but now environmental education is more dominant," Clean Islands director Randy Brown says.
Since Clean Islands took over, the sleeping cottages have been spiffed up and the property has been vastly improved.
"People are pleased to see VIERS looking fresh and in bloom," Brown said, mentioning the profusion of flowers that now graces the compound, which includes cottages, a kitchen and an office. But VIERS is more than a camping ground. The students who spend several nights at its ongoing overnight camps utilize the surrounding V.I. National Park property and the beaches at nearby Little and Great Lameshur Bays to explore the environment.
"I wish we had more [facilities] like this in the Caribbean," said Edison Greenaway, a Trinidad resident who is vice president of the Clean Islands board.
Brown said he expects to see 60 groups — a total of about 1,000 people — spend time working on projects at the station over the next year. Many groups spend just two nights at the facility; others stay for as many as six.
When VIERS opened, it was intended to serve as a base for scientific researchers. The Caribbean Research Institute at the College of the Virgin Islands set up what was first called the V.I. Ecological Research Station. It initially occupied old buildings at Little Lameshur that once had been used to process bay rum. Jack Dammann was its first director.
"When the Pride of Tortola sank off Magens Bay, we salvaged the paint to paint the ruins," Dammann recalled, laughing now at the effort it took to make VIERS happen. He said that CVI nixed any thought of setting up a research station near its home on St. Thomas because, even then, there wasn't much undisturbed land available to conduct scientific research.
"It was supposed to be both terrestrial and marine," Dammann said. When the undersea research habitat called Tektite came to St. John in 1968, Navy Seabees built the VIERS cottages. After that project ended in 1970, the cottages and lab at Greater Lameshur were absorbed into the college holdings.
V.I. National Park Supt. John King said he hopes that Clean Islands will be able to entice more researchers to VIERS. He also expressed appreciation for the facility's programs to work with students. "We hope to have more of a balance between education and research," he said.
King said the park has allocated $20,000 this year to pay for students to attend eco-camps, which he said are important in instilling an environmental ethic in children who will someday be community and government leaders.
Also, King said, the park plans to set up a visitor center and ranger station at the VIERS lab for activities relating to the new Coral Reef National Monument. The park has management responsibilites for the monument, created late last year by President Bill Clinton.
For more information, visit the VIERS web site.

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Nov. 3, 2001 - When the V.I. Environmental Resource Station set up shop back in 1966, the trip to its base at remote Lameshur Bay on St. John's south shore was one long, arduous trip. Not much has changed in that regard, but the facility itself has altered direction and ambience over the years.
On Nov. 1, VIERS celebrated its 35th anniversary.
Until 1997, VIERS was operated by the College, later the University, of the Virgin Islands, a long-distance effort that met with varying degrees of success over the decades. Four years ago, after VIERS nearly closed due to funding shortages, UVI turned its operation over to Clean Islands International, a not-for-profit environmental and educational organization based in Maryland.
"Over the years research has continued, but now environmental education is more dominant," Clean Islands director Randy Brown says.
Since Clean Islands took over, the sleeping cottages have been spiffed up and the property has been vastly improved.
"People are pleased to see VIERS looking fresh and in bloom," Brown said, mentioning the profusion of flowers that now graces the compound, which includes cottages, a kitchen and an office. But VIERS is more than a camping ground. The students who spend several nights at its ongoing overnight camps utilize the surrounding V.I. National Park property and the beaches at nearby Little and Great Lameshur Bays to explore the environment.
"I wish we had more [facilities] like this in the Caribbean," said Edison Greenaway, a Trinidad resident who is vice president of the Clean Islands board.
Brown said he expects to see 60 groups -- a total of about 1,000 people -- spend time working on projects at the station over the next year. Many groups spend just two nights at the facility; others stay for as many as six.
When VIERS opened, it was intended to serve as a base for scientific researchers. The Caribbean Research Institute at the College of the Virgin Islands set up what was first called the V.I. Ecological Research Station. It initially occupied old buildings at Little Lameshur that once had been used to process bay rum. Jack Dammann was its first director.
"When the Pride of Tortola sank off Magens Bay, we salvaged the paint to paint the ruins," Dammann recalled, laughing now at the effort it took to make VIERS happen. He said that CVI nixed any thought of setting up a research station near its home on St. Thomas because, even then, there wasn't much undisturbed land available to conduct scientific research.
"It was supposed to be both terrestrial and marine," Dammann said. When the undersea research habitat called Tektite came to St. John in 1968, Navy Seabees built the VIERS cottages. After that project ended in 1970, the cottages and lab at Greater Lameshur were absorbed into the college holdings.
V.I. National Park Supt. John King said he hopes that Clean Islands will be able to entice more researchers to VIERS. He also expressed appreciation for the facility's programs to work with students. "We hope to have more of a balance between education and research," he said.
King said the park has allocated $20,000 this year to pay for students to attend eco-camps, which he said are important in instilling an environmental ethic in children who will someday be community and government leaders.
Also, King said, the park plans to set up a visitor center and ranger station at the VIERS lab for activities relating to the new Coral Reef National Monument. The park has management responsibilites for the monument, created late last year by President Bill Clinton.
For more information, visit the VIERS web site.