To the people of the Virgin Islands, Hans Lollick Island is a priceless gem.
People of the Virgin Islands, as I speak, the threat of destructive development is looming once again. The brilliant sandy beaches and mountains of Hans Lollick are at risk. Our leaders, in particular, the legislators, the administration, and DPNR/Coastal Zone Management, will soon be faced with a most critical confrontation: the choice between what nature has left for our generation and generations to come versus the influence of money and politics.
It will be very important in the meantime for those of us who have been a part of Hans Lollick's history to unite and educate the population about this wonderful island in paradise and what it means to family and culture.
Hans Lollick is an island of approximately 500 acres which sits to the north of Magens Bay. Many residents from Crown Mountain to Mahogany Run can sit on their balconies and view it. Hans Lollick is so very important in many ways. It has sustained a tremendous amount of fishing and diving pressure over the years, but still provides hundreds of pounds of fresh fish and shellfish, an important staple to our Virgin Islands diet. Our national dish, boil fish and fungi, is a prime example of this.
Hopefully, if the island is left intact, the coast surrounding Hans Lollick might just remain an important fishing area for commercial, sport and recreational fishermen.
Let me explain to you first-hand what I know about Hans Lollick and the diverse waters and coastline surrounding it. Let's start from Coconut Bay, which faces east looking toward St. John. Extending outward from one of our most pristine sandy beaches, it is home to a population of queen conch. The shallows there are filled with numerous patch reefs and a breakwater reef, approximately 150 yards from the bay.
These reefs are filled with magnificent marine life, from sting rays to adult and juvenile sharks; and here local campers and day-trippers can often enjoy the luxury of snaring a Caribbean spiny lobster for a gourmet lunch or dinner. A thriving array of live coral reefs flourishes there, and because Coconut Bay is one, just one, of Hans Lollick's turtle nesting beaches, a diver or boater will often run into a hawksbill sea turtle foraging or cruising around the beach area. This jubilee of ocean life, in my opinion, can easily be a satire to the recent Disney movie, "Finding Nemo."
Coconut Bay is American paradise! Both residents and nonresidents enjoy the beauty of this beach. The beach area comprises tall and oblong coconut trees (hence the name locals call it). Often appearing on postcards, in wedding pictures, and even on soap operas such as "The Bold and the Beautiful," the beach is simply breathtaking. Cactus, hot rock shrubs (Nicker-Caesalpinia bonduc), tamarind, acacia, seagrape, and many more trees and terrestrial life are all present. Wild goats, lizards, snakes, iguanas, hermit crabs, wild donkeys (often used by taxi drivers who tell stories to the tourists.), hawks, other birds and even chickens are some of the local flora and fauna which roam the beach area.
Since Hans Lollick is not connected to St. Thomas and it requires a boat or helicopter to get there, it has been less impacted by the traffic than many of our main island beaches have been. Although it has become more popular over the years, the people who frequent the beach are influenced by its aura and beauty and feel a sense of pride to leave the beach as they found it.
The beach area is so pleasant for camping because tropical easterly winds caress the shoreline keeping mosquitoes and those menacing sandflies away. It provides the ideal environment for an evening of domino and card games while listening to calypso on the radio.
A short walk to the northeast of the beach, over coral rock and rubble, leads to limestone cliffs. The first cliff — "First Rock" as locals refer to it — is a famous rock for fishing. Campers can always rely on this rock for catching their lunch. These cliffs are also filled with whelks, crabs, sea stars and other inter-tidal creatures!
I often reminisce while camping about my grandfather getting up before break of daylight and taking me on the hike to First Rock, with all his tackle in a homemade bamboo cylinder. Having made me collect a bucket of soldier crabs with a flashlight the night before, we were ready to fish! When the morning grew late, around 9 o'clock, we would head back to the campsite with a variety of species of fish, such as sling parrot (wrasse), oldwife (triggerfish), gutu (parrotfish), redhind, and countless others. Sometimes we would leave earlier when fish of a species of fish we call hedgehog (porcupine fish) started cutting our line and even the metal hooks with their razor-sharp teeth.
French people still frequent this rock to form a bond and to teach their kids about fishing and why our natural resource is so very crucial to the entire community. I enjoyed a childhood many would dream of having because there is such a place as Hans Lollick Island!
Hans Lollick Island is at risk for development by a mega-stateside corporation. Understanding that such corporations rely on development to keep growing, there are currently powerful individuals here amongst us working behind the scenes, researching the tone of the island and particularly the fiscal fiasco that our government is currently in.
With leaders disregarding our environment by allowing resorts such as Botany Bay and Great Pond to pick the most sensitive environments to build at, we must be ready to act to defend against the development of Hans Lollick. These major developments in ecologically sensitive zones are not being scrutinized enough in relation to the long-term damage they pose.
While education of our youth on the environment is the answer, the V.I. public schools are currently being neglected. We must, I say must, do a better job of enlightening the kids on conservation. Many of our current leaders cannot even conserve and budget the government, so we definitely cannot rely on them to save our environment. Once it is destroyed, you cannot borrow and borrow and borrow to fix it. Our coral reefs will be gone, our fish will be gone, and our culture will be gone.
Lastly, I can tell you from now that the key is not development after development. If the United Nations will look toward the Virgin Islands as an example of sustainable development in the Caribbean, they will not judge us by the number of mega-resorts hanging off the coastline. We will be judged on the balance of environment + positive economic development = overall quality of living in the US Virgin Islands!
Gene Brin Jr.
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