March 23, 2006 – St. John boaters are facing some changes. For starters, the V.I. Port Authority recently put up a paper sign saying that boaters will have pay to use the Cruz Bay dinghy dock. However, it does not appear that the Port Authority has begun to collect money.
No details are available because Port Authority spokesman Carol O'Bryan-Henneman did not return repeated calls requesting information. She said she would, but did not respond to subsequent phone calls.
Requests left with Darlan Brin, Port Authority director, and Monifa Marrero, another spokesman, also were not returned.
"It seems like it would be worthwhile for them to explain it," said St. John boater Lee Stanciauskas on Thursday.
Stanciauskas said that the notice, which is visible only from the dinghy dock, indicates boats up to 20 feet in length will have to pay $3 a day or $150 a year to use the facility. Boats from 21 to 30 feet will be charged $5 a day or $200 a year.
She said the sign indicates boaters are to pay at the office. Where's the office?" she asked, indicating that she has no idea where it might be.
Stanciauskas said she would be willing to pay $150 if she got a spot exclusively for her dinghy.
She said the Cruz Bay dinghy dock is usually filled, forcing boaters to leave their dinghies on the beaches around Cruz Bay. She said this is a problem because it makes it easier for thieves to steal the boats.
While many permanent residents use the dinghy dock, Stanciauskas said it also serves as a spot for visitors to tie up their dinghies.
Stanciauskas said that the Port Authority does not do much in the way of maintenance on the dinghy docks.
As if the Cruz Bay dinghy dock situation wasn't enough, changes are in the works at the Westin Resort and Villas' parking area now used by people whose boats are moored in Great Cruz Bay.
"They want to close down the parking," Stanciauskas said.
She said that hundreds of people, including boaters, Westin and concession employees, Rotary Club members attending their Friday meeting at the resort, and others, use the road and the parking.
"It's become difficult for the Westin to deal with," she said.
Westin manager Matt Balcik, Westin regional manager Graeme Davis, Planning and Natural Resources enforcement chief Lucia Francis, and several boaters met last week to discuss the matter.
DPNR spokesman Jamal Nielsen said Thursday that Francis and St. John Administrator Julien Harley were meeting Friday to find an alternative parking area for the boaters.
Nielsen said the Westin needs only to maintain the area as a public access to the beach.
Balcik agreed, noting that the area was originally intended as a turnaround area and public access to the Westin's beach.
He said Wednesday that 20 to 30 cars now park there on a regular basis.
Balcik said the overcrowding poses a risk for the Westin, which would face liability issues if someone was hurt or a vehicle suffered damage.
He said a few of the boaters who do not have Westin concessions pick up snorkel trip customers at the parking area. Nielsen said DPNR was looking it to this because it appears that one boat is running an operation at that location.
Balcik also complained that boat owners work on their dinghies in the area. "It's messy and disorganized looking," he said.
Stanciauskas said the boaters now hold cleanups every two months to make sure the area is kept up. She said the boaters chipped in to hire a tow truck to get rid of an abandoned car. And she said the boaters made sure the car had all its hazardous fluids removed.
"That was a lot of time and effort," she said.
Balcik said boat owners walk their dogs on the Westin's beaches, leaving behind dog droppings.
Balcik said that the Westin won't take any action for a month.
He said that the government has some responsibility in the matter since it issued mooring permits to the boaters without any thought to where they would park and how they would get to their boats.
Nielsen said more than 80 boats hold mooring permits for Great Cruz Bay. Stanciauskas said that about two dozen are live-aboards.
Balcik said he's willing to work out a compromise with the boaters. "Let's look at finding a happy medium," he said.
Stanciauskas is hoping for the same outcome.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.