April 10, 2003 – One bill introduced in Congress this week by Delegate Donna M. Christensen could help tourism in St. Croix. Another might improve relations between the V.I. National Park and the St. John community.
The first bill directs the Interior Department to study the feasibility of designating St. Croix a National Heritage Area. Christensen said the island has natural, historical and cultural resources that represent distinctive aspects of American heritage that are worthy of recognition and also provide outstanding recreational and educational opportunities.
"Cultural or heritage tourism is one of the best ways to enhance the tourism product on St. Croix," Christensen said in a release distributed on Thursday. And, she said, National Heritage Area designation would give the island an economic boost.
Joel Tutein, superintendent of the Christiansted National Historic Site and Buck Island Reef National Monument, said the NHA program is an "external" National Park Service program but had no further information. No one could be reached at the NPS Atlanta office for details.
The second bill, Christensen said, would serve to diminish conflicts between the V.I. park and the St. John community. Its intent is to foster communication and allow "communities that exist in close proximity to national parks to have more input into park decisions," the release stated. The delegate has titled the measure the proposed Healthy Public Lands, Healthy Communities Act.
The V.I. National Park "sits in the middle of the thriving community of St. John," she said. "Because of this, conflicts continue to arise because of park decisions which appear to residents to have been proposed in a unilateral and dictatorial manner."
Park Superintendent John King said that similar legislation was previously introduced and failed because this park and all national parks are just that — national parks.
King said the bill would require the park administration to include the local government in its planning decisions. However, he noted, park officials already consult with the community and the island administrator when making decisions.
He said the bill would not give the local government the authority to get involved in day-to-day park decision-making.
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