April 7, 2009 — Families have traditionally spent the Easter weekend relaxing at camp sites, telling their own stories while dishing out the day's catch, complete with side dishes cooked with little fanfare over campfires.
This year the National Park Service hopes to get in on the action, according to NPS Superintendent Joel Tutein.
"We are going to be giving them historical information about the site where they are camping, as part of a grant that Channel 12 received to help promote the National Park," Tutein said.
The oral presentation, which will begin at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, will be on the historic significance of the area that many have come to know simply as Columbus Landing.
The place is known as the site where Christopher Columbus came ashore on St. Croix more than 500 years ago, according to WTJX producer Anil Bruce, who will be on hand to film the event for a planned documentary.
WTJX Channel 12 is the local Public Broadcasting Service, station and received a grant to produce the documentary jointly with the National Park Service, Tutein said.
He added that the NPS is taking the opportunity to do the presentation when officials believe they would have campers' undivided attention, and it was in keeping with what campers expected.
"One of the complaints has been we've never met the campers on their terms, so we are going to their element," said Tutein. "We're coming off the hill and coming down to the beach."
The National Park Service building on the site overlooks Salt River Beach — thus the reference to coming off the hill. Four years ago, the NPS held joint meetings with the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources with campers after discovering artifacts from Taino Indians in areas controlled by the park system. The two agencies, with input from campers, established a permitting process for camping at the site and instituted bans on digging and fire pits among others.
Tutein praised WTJX for its work to get the documentary completed, calling it a "very positive gesture."
"When you can meet your constituents on their term and disseminate information to them, it's always a good thing," he said.
Meanwhile DPNR is reminding campers at Salt River of the permit requirement for camping at Columbus Landing site. As is customary, the department will provide portable toilets Tuesday through April 14, 2009, according to a statement.
Campers are encouraged to bring additional trash bins and portable toilets.
DPNR is also cautioning residents against leaving trash at camp areas and is encouraging campers to help with cleanup of the beach and areas outside individual campsites.
The other guidelines are as follows:
– Camp sites should be occupied by the individual designated as responsible in the event identification is requested by a DPNR Enforcement Officer;
– Digging of any kind will not be tolerated. This means no fire-pits, no trash pits, but smoothing of the ground surface is allowed by hand, brush, or leaf rake. No heavy equipment is allowed on site;
– Campfires placed within a metal container or on bare sand are allowed and are to be supervised and monitored whenever a fire or hot coals are present;
– Trash is to be carried out by individuals at each camp site. Anyone caught littering will be cited.
– Portable toilets and trash bin will be provided;
– No driving of any motorized vehicles is allowed on the earthen fort. Anyone driving up onto the fort earthworks will be cited and subject to a fine of up to $500.
The following are prohibited: fights, altercations, and loud, boisterous or drunken activities; dogs and horses; cutting of trees, brush or other vegetation, especially mangroves, or on the beach.
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