If you want to help preserve and protect the marine resources on the east end of St. Croix the Friends of the St. Croix East End Marine Park want to have you as a friend.
The Friends are a network of volunteers and supporters dedicated to the protection and preservation of natural and cultural resources within the St. Croix East End Marine Park. The group promotes responsible enjoyment of the park and are a link to the community through outreach and education. They also support the park by volunteering time on park projects and donating funds, helping the park to achieve its mission of promoting the responsible enjoyment of this natural treasure.
Jenn Travis, coordinator for the group and environmental educator, said the group is always seeking friends to volunteer for special projects. They require dedicated people who can volunteer a few hours on a regular basis, including some training required training before a project begins.
The Friends will survey diadema by snorkeling along an area counting the black spiny urchins. Travis said they could use two to four people for an hour every two weeks.
She said sea turtle nesting surveys walk the beach, monitoring nests. Two to 10 people are required three to five hours weekly.
And there are coral watch surveys monitoring patch reefs for bleaching by snorkel surveys, she added. Two to 10 volunteers are needed once or twice monthly for a few hours each time. Travis said the coral is in peril and it is important to take care of it to maintain a healthy watershed.
“We do things for the park such as the surveys that they aren’t able to do,” Travis said. “And the park can’t solicit donations or accept any funds.”
Travis says the group currently has about 15 members.
Anyone can join as Free Friends, and there are VIP Friends with annual dues starting at $35 for individuals or $50 for a family. Free Friends receive a newsletter, email updates and a Friends T-shirt. VIP Friends get free access to Friends’ events, a reusable water bottle, and all the benefits of a Free Friendship plus discounts at local supporting businesses. There is an annual meeting in December.
The Friends hold Second Wednesday Lunch Seminars at local restaurants with informative and relevant marine presentations and speakers. They do beach clean ups and lionfish derbies. They recently did a Bay Side tour with park rangers.
July 13 the friends will hold a snorkel outing at Rod Bay.
Travis said the group will join with the Nature Conservancy to build a boardwalk from the park office to the beach.
“The boardwalk will provide safe and secure access and it will look nice,” Travis said.
The third annual Stand Up Paddle Board Race will take place Sept. 1. The event raises awareness about the park and the marine environment. All proceeds will be put directly towards achieving the mission of the park. Sustainable recreational activities such as SUP engage the community by introducing a new activity suitable for everyone.
“We need a few volunteers for the SUP race,” Travis said.
The current tentative race course is a 1.5 mile loop in Teague Bay with a 100-meter run between loops. In between each loop, racers will exit the water and run to the entry point 100 meters away. Assistants will be on hand to help with boards.
Activities allowed in the recreational zones are swimming, snorkeling, diving, boating and shoreline recreational take line fishing. It is a wildlife preserve protecting sea turtle nesting in Isac, Jack and Boiler Bays.
The friends are under the umbrella of the St. Croix Foundation. The park is overseen by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources Division of Coastal Zone Management.
Established in 2003, the park encompasses an area of approximately 60 nautical miles with 17 miles of shoreline around the east end of St. Croix. According to a media release, the park hosts a diverse variety of unique marine habitats and marine organisms. The mission of the STXEEMP is to manage these natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. Park programs include biological monitoring of park resources as well as a public outreach that includes classroom presentations, bay-side walking and snorkel tours, and the mobile ECO-Van.
Further information is available by calling Travis at 1-340-718-3367 or by email to the Friends at firstname.lastname@example.org