A trail crew of ten is now clearing debris in portions of Cinnamon Bay Campground to ready the popular campsite for limited use by mid-November.
The announcement was made at a town hall meeting called by Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett held at the Legislature Annex in Cruz Bay Wednesday evening.
Although the beach at Cinnamon Bay is open, all facilities at the campground — including tents, cottages, bathrooms, a restaurant, a store, and a water sports center — have remained closed since Hurricane Irma tore through the island in September 2017.
Caribbean Parks Superintendent Randy Lavasseur said debris removal at the campground is one of the first operations within the Virgin Islands National Park to utilize special funding appropriated through Congress last January. (Derelict boat removal from V.I. National Park waters was the first.) Congress approved nearly $207 million to aid national parks in the Caribbean, Texas, Florida, and the Atlantic Coast that were affected by the 2017 storm season.
The trail crew is now clearing enough land at Cinnamon Bay to set up ten primitive campsites, similar to what may be found in back country areas in other national parks. Campers must bring their own tents, cooking equipment, food, and bedding. Bathrooms with running water and electricity will not be available, so campers will use Port-a-Potties as beach-goers do now.
The absence of water and electricity is tied into a dispute between the National Park Service and the company that has the concession to operate the campground and facilities at Trunk Bay. Redwood Parks Co. had taken over operations at Cinnamon and Trunk Bays less than a year before Hurricane Irma struck. “It looks like the concession operator now wants to sell,” Lavasseur said.
To what extent Redwood Parks is responsible for repairing hurricane damage is now being litigated by solicitors working for the Department of the Interior, he said.
Some pathways through the campground were cleared last fall when trail crews removed storm debris on roadways and beaches throughout the park following the storm. Asked why crews didn’t clear Cinnamon Bay Campground at the time, Lavasseur said, “We didn’t know who was legally obligated. We still don’t have an answer, but we’re not waiting. We felt this is too important for the community.”
The Park Service is now exploring the possibility of bringing in food trucks to provide drinks and snacks at Cinnamon and Trunk bays on a temporary basis. The two beaches are popular sites for cruise ship passengers on tours as well as other visitors. Announcements regarding opportunities for providers of food service will be forthcoming, Lavasseur said.
The VINP hasn’t yet determined what it will charge for the bare camping sites, or how reservations will be handled. “We’re creating a plan and hope to have it all readied by mid-November,” Lavasseur added