Ravaged by hurricanes, Virgin Islands National Park reopens beaches

Famous for its picture-perfect beaches, sunsets and renowned underwater snorkeling travel, the US Virgin Islands has ...

Posted: Dec 27, 2017 1:58 PM
Updated: Dec 27, 2017 1:58 PM

Famous for its picture-perfect beaches, sunsets and renowned underwater snorkeling travel, the US Virgin Islands has been trying to restore that beauty after the devastation of two powerful storms in September 2017.

For an economy so dependent on travel and its renowned national park, there's some good news.

More than 100 days after Hurricane Irma devastated the island of St. John, Virgin Islands National Park reported that all beaches, trails and roads are open at the destination.

"Virgin Islands National Park is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in America and is a major economic contributor to the Island's economy, which is why it will be an important part of rebuilding after this devastating hurricane season,"-said US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, in a December 20 news release.

"We are very excited to declare the park open for business, just in time for the holidays when many tourists visit the Islands."

The National Park Service reports that it attracted more than a half a million visitors to the islands in 2016, spending about $70 million and supporting 900 jobs.

The national park covers nearly two-thirds of St. John and more than 5,000 acres of the adjacent Caribbean Sea.

A US territory for a century

The US Virgin Islands have been a US territory since 1917, when the United States purchased the islands of St. John, St. Thomas and St. Croix from Denmark for $25 million. (Residents were granted US citizenship in 1927.)

National Park Service incident teams headed to Virgin Islands National Park, one of the 59 landmark national parks of the US National Park Service, to assess the damage soon after Hurricane Irma hit in early September and Hurricane Maria landed two weeks later.

Some 445 staffers from the park service, US Fish and Wildlife Service and US Forest Service joined with the park's permanent staff to clear debris, restore utility service and add guest facilities over the past three months, according to Virgin Islands National Park Acting Superintendent Darrell Echols.

"This was a huge undertaking,"-Echols said. "The park still has a large number of challenges ahead, such as removing 64 displaced vessels sunk within the park or washed upon the shore, and completing major repairs on utility systems, roads and several park houses."

The beaches are open

Trunk Bay's renowned 225-yard-long underwater snorkeling trail survived the pummeling. The Category 5 storms moved markers on the trail but didn't destroy them, tourism officials told CNN.

While all of the park's beaches have been inspected for underwater debris, visitors should check with park rangers about current conditions, be careful in the water, and note that not all mooring buoys have been repaired yet.

Nonetheless, there's cause for celebration for this tiny territory of about 100,000 people.

"Virgin Islands National Park is a key element of our beautiful landscape and an important visitor attraction here in the US Virgin Islands," said Beverly Nicholson-Doty, the islands' tourism commissioner.

"The significant milestone of the reopening of the Virgin Islands National Park is encouraging for our tourism industry as travelers experience our breathtaking beaches, inspirational hiking trails and picturesque backdrops," she said.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 50300

Reported Deaths: 2748
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11920692
Lake5432248
Elkhart347058
Allen2902133
St. Joseph205169
Hamilton1665101
Cass16449
Hendricks1446100
Johnson1325118
Porter80238
Tippecanoe7599
Clark68144
Vanderburgh6816
Madison67264
LaPorte60527
Howard59458
Bartholomew59345
Kosciusko5704
Marshall5308
Noble50128
LaGrange4829
Jackson4783
Boone47444
Delaware46952
Hancock46036
Shelby43525
Floyd40444
Morgan33631
Monroe32928
Grant30926
Dubois2976
Henry29717
Montgomery29720
Clinton2893
White26810
Decatur25532
Dearborn25423
Lawrence25225
Vigo2478
Warrick24329
Harrison21722
Greene19332
Miami1922
Jennings17912
Putnam1728
DeKalb1674
Scott1639
Wayne1536
Daviess15017
Perry1459
Orange13723
Steuben1362
Jasper1332
Franklin1278
Ripley1277
Wabash1152
Carroll1132
Gibson1132
Fayette1057
Whitley1045
Newton10010
Starke983
Huntington932
Randolph794
Wells791
Jefferson782
Fulton731
Jay680
Washington681
Knox670
Clay665
Pulaski661
Rush613
Posey550
Owen521
Benton510
Spencer501
Adams491
Sullivan471
Brown431
Blackford402
Fountain352
Crawford330
Tipton321
Switzerland300
Martin240
Parke230
Ohio220
Vermillion200
Warren151
Union130
Pike110
Unassigned0193

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 62856

Reported Deaths: 3032
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin11433443
Cuyahoga8786393
Hamilton6563207
Lucas2889305
Marion274039
Montgomery237835
Summit2299209
Pickaway221641
Mahoning1907239
Butler176747
Columbiana135060
Stark1196114
Lorain109769
Trumbull103277
Warren94525
Clark79310
Delaware67515
Fairfield64317
Tuscarawas60110
Lake57022
Belmont56722
Medina56632
Licking56012
Miami50331
Portage48759
Wood47451
Clermont4537
Ashtabula44544
Geauga42543
Wayne37253
Richland3635
Allen34841
Greene3229
Mercer29510
Erie26722
Holmes2575
Darke25326
Huron2382
Madison2139
Ottawa16624
Sandusky15715
Washington14420
Coshocton1413
Ross1393
Crawford1385
Putnam13415
Hardin12312
Morrow1211
Athens1111
Auglaize1094
Jefferson1052
Muskingum961
Union931
Monroe8917
Hancock851
Lawrence820
Preble821
Hocking809
Clinton791
Guernsey793
Shelby744
Williams742
Logan681
Fulton660
Scioto650
Carroll643
Ashland632
Wyandot625
Brown601
Fayette550
Defiance533
Knox531
Champaign511
Highland491
Van Wert451
Perry411
Seneca402
Henry330
Paulding280
Jackson270
Pike270
Adams251
Vinton232
Gallia201
Noble130
Harrison121
Meigs120
Morgan120
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 70°
Angola
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 68°
Huntington
67° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 67°
Decatur
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 68°
Van Wert
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 68°
Breezy, Sunny Saturday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events