April 23, 2009 – Hurricane Omar's damage to the territory's national parks will finally get cleaned up and repaired thanks to $1.6 million in stimulus funds headed to the Virgin Islands.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Wednesday that the nation's national parks will receive nearly $750 million in stimulus funding. The announcement came in a ceremony at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The funding is officially called the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009.
"From the Civil War to the Great Depression, Americas best ideas for protecting our national parks and open spaces have often come when our nation has faced its greatest challenges," Salazar said in a press release.
Locally, the $1.6 million breaks down to $1.4 million for St. Croix's three national parks and $245,000 for St. John's V.I. National Park.
Most of the money for St. Croix will go to clean up the mess left behind by the passage of Hurricane Omar last October.
"The brunt of Hurricane Omar passed over Buck Island. A lot of trees were destroyed, the pier was seriously damaged and our boundary and regulatory buoys destroyed," Buck Island Reef National Monument Superintendent Joel Tutein said Thursday.
Buck Island projects include $997,000 to make those repairs.
Tutein is also superintendent of Christiansted National Historic Site and Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve.
Christiansted Historic Site's buildings suffered extensive damage from the hurricane, and $414,000 will go to fixing problems at buildings such as the Danish Customs House, the Steeple Building and the Danish West India and Guinea Co. warehouse, Tutein said.
The park's sprinkler system landward of Fort Christiansvaern took a beating when crews began removing a downed mahogany tree located close to Hospital Street.
"The root system tore up a two-inch water line," Tutein said.
At Salt River, $32,000 worth of stimulus funding will enable the park to hire 30 plus island youths under the park's eight-week Youth Conservation Corps program. Last year, the park was able to hire only 24, Tutein said.
Tutein said those youths will clear vegetation from around a Danish well tower. While there isn't funding to repair the tower, he said removing the vegetation will help stabilize it.
According to Tutein, hiring those additional youths will stimulate the economy. The park buys gear and safety equipment for the youths and rents kayaks from local businesses to teach the youths marine skills, and makes other local purchases.
Additionally, he said the park, in conjunction with the federal Small Business Administration, held seminars for local businesses to help them get ready to apply for federal contracts.
V.I. National Park on St. John will also get to clean up from Omar with its $245,000, Superintendent Mark Hardgrove said. He said the storm exacerbated the erosion at Cinnamon Bay and the beach is now undercutting the foundation at the Cinnamon Bay Warehouse.
"That's the oldest building on St. John," he said.
The money will also go to clean up debris left from the storm and make storm-related repairs to its buildings.
Hardgrove initially hoped that enough stimulus money would be available to extend the North Shore Road repaving project to Centerline Road, but that wasn't the case. However, he said the National Park Service stepped in to fill the gap with $2.8 million. The park had $1.2 million from its fee program to add to the $4.9 million coming from the Federal Highway Administration.
The repaving will start at the parks' maintenance area just as the North Shore Road heads uphill in Cruz Bay. It will extend up King Hill Road to Centerline Road and to the intersection where the roads to Maho Bay and Annaberg Plantation meet.
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.