The St. Croix East End Marine Park Visitor Center is ready for visitors to jump in and explore more about the park’s natural resources and habitats.
Located on St. Croix’s east end, the visitor center was first conceived several years ago. It was expected to open in early 2020 but the opening was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The center is equipped with touch-screen LCD displays, games, vibrant educational plaques and a digital underwater walkthrough.
The East End Marine Park is managed by the Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources, Coastal Zone Management and was first established in 2003. It is the first territorial park in the U.S. Virgin Islands and was created to protect wildlife and natural resources found on St. Croix. At the center, tourists, families and students can learn more about how they can protect the park.
“The park goes from the Boy Scout Camp, all the way to the north side of St. Croix, Green Key Marina, and all the way to Point Udall,” said Kelcie Troutman, the East End Marine Park outreach coordinator. “It also encompasses the water outside of it. The marine park is the water, not really the land, and it is also the reef and 300 feet outside of the reef. In the marine park, you are not allowed to fish, spearfish, hunt for conch or lobster, only in designated areas.”
Walking into the center, visitors can read more on the history, a map of restricted areas and how the park was established. Continuing along brings visitors to touch screens where they can learn about responsible fishing practices to avoid overfishing and choosing the appropriate species to fish. After figuring out what is for dinner, the visitors can grab a magnetic fishing pole at “Castaway Corner” where they learn more about approved sizes of fish and crustaceans.
A highlight of the center is the underwater walkthrough that gives visitors the sense they are walking under the sea. The walkthrough also features short movies of underwater fish and sea life. A touch-screen interactive module lets guests learn about the watershed and how it affects the ocean when it rains.
Visitors who want a dive experience using virtual reality goggles can call the center ahead of their visit – at 340-718-3367 – to schedule it. And before leaving visitors can take a picture with the center’s photo booth picture frame and sign the guestbook.
Although the center is a great spot for tourists to learn more about the park, Troutman said the crew looks forward to children exploring the center.
“We want to focus on school groups. When school opens, we will have access to book kids,” Troutman said. They also are looking forward to summer camp groups stopping by and exploring the park.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the capacity of the visitor center is 10 people, and masks are required for entry. The St. Croix East End Marine Park Visitor Center will begin tours on Thursday, April 8.
The center is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and starting in May will be open at the same hours, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., on the first Saturday of every month.