August 5, 2022
Dear neighbors and friends of Virgin Islands National Park,
The National Park Service (NPS) seeks public input on an environmental assessment for a potential land exchange between Virgin Islands National Park (the park) and the Territorial government of the US Virgin Islands (the Territory) on St. John. The 30-day comment period begins August 23 and ends on September 22.
The purpose of this project is to respond to a request from the Territory for the NPS to convey to it a parcel of NPS-owned land (known as the Catherineberg Estate [Tract No. 01-137A]) as a possible location to support the island’s local educational needs, in exchange for territory-owned Whistling Cay. The project is needed because the Territory has determined that the Catherineberg exchange parcel is the preferred site on the island of St. John for a new public school due its central location along an existing roadway and its relatively gentle slopes. This potential exchange provides the opportunity for local officials to achieve their long-standing effort to construct the first public K-12 school on the island of St. John. Education is a component of the NPS mission, and therefore, this request from the Territory aligns with NPS goals.
This past spring, we invited the public to provide comments on the purpose, need and objectives of the proposed action during 30 days of public scoping. At that time, the NPS referenced key issues, including visitor use and cultural resources, which are more fully evaluated in the environmental assessment.
St. John lacks a public secondary school, and students must commute daily to the neighboring island of St. Thomas to complete their high school education. Over the past three decades, the Territory and the US government have discussed approaches to expanding education on St. John. In 2017, Hurricanes Irma and Maria increased the urgency of finding a solution, as the storms destroyed the only public elementary school on St. John. Teachers currently instruct their elementary students in temporary structures erected on adjacent recreational space shortly after the 2017 storms.
How to Comment
Comments may be submitted electronically at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/stjohnlandexhange or mailed to Potential Land Exchange, Superintendent, Virgin Islands National Seashore, 1300 Cruz Bay Creek, St. John, VI 00830. The 30-day comment period begins August 23 and ends on September 22.
In addition, the park will have a printed copy of the environmental assessment for review and comment cards available at the park headquarters (1300 Cruz Bay Creek, St. John, VI 00830) during the Visitor Center hours of 9:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Mondays through Fridays.
For additional information on the project, please visit https://parkplanning.nps.gov/stjohnlandexhange