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Friends of the Park Highlight Accomplishments During Annual Meeting

Jan. 21, 2007 – Last year was a "reasonably good year" for V.I. National Park. That was the assessment of Resources Management Chief Rafe Boulon, who spoke to more than 100 attendees during Sunday's annual Friends of the Park meeting held at T'Ree Lizards Restaurant at Cinnamon Bay Campground.
"That's despite level funding and cost increases," he said.
Boulon spoke in the absence of a permanent park superintendent. The last one, Art Frederick, left in September 2006. Acting Superintendent Walter Chavez returned recently to his permanent job at the San Juan national parks. The next acting superintendent, Catherine Light, arrived Saturday night. She was formerly in charge of Tuskegee Airmen National Park, Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail and Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site.
"I hope I can be an asset to you," she said.
Boulon and Friends President Joe Kessler both said that the September 2006 acquisition of 415 undeveloped acres at Maho Bay, by the Trust for Public Land, was high on the list of last year's accomplishments.
Boulon said a meeting will be held this week to determine how to partition the acreage among the park, which owns three of 11 undivided shares. The remaining shares are owned by the trust, which has seven, and a Marsh family heir, who retained a single share.
In discussing the much-awaited plan to swap park land at Catherineberg for land owned by the local government in order to move Julius E. Sprauve School out of Cruz Bay, Boulon said that the National Park Service is waiting for the local government to come up with land of comparable value.
He said that a delay on the park's part arose because one person had a "life estate" in part of the Catherineberg land, but the woman recently died at age 105.
Boulon also said that plans are under way to repave more of the North Shore Road. "We'll pave from the visitors center to the top of King Hill Road, including striping," he said.
He said that $2.1 million worth of work was done in 2006, with another $4.25 million planned for 2008. He said planning for the project will occur in 2007.
In outlining the Friends' achievements during the past year, Kessler said that hundreds of Friends volunteers put in more than 2,000 hours of work.
Kessler said the Friends funded $400,000 worth of projects and activities during 2006.
He said that this year the Friends will work on developing handicapped-accessible trails at Cinnamon and Francis bays.
Keynote speaker Vin Cipolla, president and chief executive officer of the National Park Foundation, spoke about the importance of philanthropy and volunteerism in the park.
"It's amazing what a group of individuals can do," he said.
In other news, St. John architect Glen Speer was named Friends Volunteer of the Year for his work in developing the Friends philanthropy garden located at the park's visitors center in Cruz Bay.
Friends volunteers Frank Cummings and Anna Tuttle were also honored for their work. Additionally, park staff member Jackie Smalls was honored for her work on the park's 50th anniversary celebration held in December 2006.
In Friends business, incoming board chairman Fraser Drummond took over the gavel from outgoing chairman John Fuller.
"John has made a significant contribution. He worked himself to the bone," Kessler said.
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