Saturday is the 18th annual National Public Lands Day, an event celebrated at national parks, monuments and other public lands around the country. Admission is free at all parks across the country that charge an entry fee.
Locally, it means that the admission fees at Trunk Bay in V.I. National Park on St. John and at Christiansted National Historic Site on St. Croix are waived for the day. These are the only two park sites in the territory that charge admission.
“Ranging from the community playground to the world’s first national park, about one third of our country’s land is public space – set aside for all of us to enjoy,” National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said in a press release.
Jarvis urged people across the country to get out and enjoy their public lands.
Joel Tutein, superintendent at the St. Croix national parks, called the nation’s parks a gift not only to the American people but to those from around the world who visit.
“It’s America’s best idea,” he said.
Closer to home, Tutein said that extensive development across the territory coupled with deteriorating natural resources make the parks even more important because they are protecting what’s inside the park boundaries.
“Some of the most beautiful places are secured in perpetuity,” he said.
Mark Hardgrove, superintendent at the St. John parks, could not be reached for comment.
The Virgin Islands is home to a plethora of public lands. In addition to V.I. National Park and Christiansted National Historic Site, there are several others. St. John’s national park has as site at Hassel Island, located in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Harbor, a facility at Red Hook, St. Thomas and property in Wintberg, St. Thomas. St. John also has V.I. Coral Reef National Monument.
St. Croix is also home to Buck Island Reef National Monument and Salt River National Historic Park and Ecological Preserve, both managed by the National Park Service. Additionally, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge is on St. Croix.
Castle Nugent and the Alexander Hamilton boyhood home at Estate Grange, both on St. Croix, are national parks in the planning stages, Tutein said.
When it’s not a fee free day, admission fee runs $4 at Trunk Bay. At Christiansted National Historic site, the $3 admission fee allows entry into Fort Christiansvaern, the Steeple Building and the Scale House. Children under 16 are allowed free entry at both locations.
The National Park Service press release indicates that the National Park Service has more than 20,000 employees working at the nation’s 395 parks. They cover 84 million acres of memorials, landscapes, ecosystems, and historic sites.