Personal Ramblings about Book Learnin’ Vs. Common Sense

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Open Letter to National Park:

It seems to me that Maho Beach has been working just fine.

Preventing parking along the roadside, leaves only about 12 spots along tree side, five around the curve, and four by the community building.  You expect all tourists to take safari taxis?  Won’t  that congest the road in a different way?

Most tourists have a rental car. What is the tourist turnover each week? How are you going to pre-inform those hundreds of folks? There are at least that many tourist cars that will utilize those spaces.

So where does that leave residents? Many of us in Coral Bay just like to “pop down” to Maho for a quick swim — in and out — and parking hasn’t been a problem. I’d even be willing to walk from some widened roadside space along the one way road heading to Annaberg rather than see a paved parking lot.

With your plan, we will have to gauge time and tourist conditions and fight others off for the coveted spaces….maybe even camp out the night before like they do for play-off tickets. Yes, you say you will open more spaces, build something else, but why not leave it the way we like it, funky and natural? If it ain’t broke,…don’t fix it!

I agree with you that something new and not nice is happening. Four ‘new’ spaces have been created recently by cars going off roadside and nosing in seaward right onto the sandy beach, two to a space. They are usually 4WD rental cars that can go off the pavement drop onto what used to be used only as a wide entrance to beach.  

I  started noticing it by the huge amount of sand carried out onto the pavement as they probably gun their way back out onto the road. These spots, I agree, need to be taken out of use….ASAP.  

I hope locals are more cognizant of damage to their own environment, so maybe some courteous  educational signage is just needed, like you do for reef damage from swim fins. Maybe the signage could be on the litter containers that Maho lacks, especially notable after Sunday family outings or boaters looking to empty their trash bags.

You would better spend your efforts in enforcing the policing of run-off violations from construction sites which kills the reefs, something more important for you to protect than a few cars making a parking bulge, slowing traffic, but no damage. Our biggest natural assets are the water and the beaches, not really the impenetrable park.   

How about going after the cement trucks that are spilling all over the roads within the National Park —especially between Coral Bay and East End — and making the park unsightly as well as dangerous as drivers tend to swing around them going into the oncoming lane.  

A hot-line report number to phone and the fines collected would pay for your signs and litter containers. (Have you noticed how tourists come here already trained not to litter and to recycle….and then are frustrated in their environmental awareness by our not supplying either?) Take a poll of folks in the tourist related industries and find out how many times they have to reply, “No, we don’t have recycling…just throw it in the dumpsters”.

Or check this out… how about improving the conditions of some of the hiking trails?  “Lets Get Folks Out of their Cars on Maho and Onto the Trails”  could be the VINP motto for 2007! 

What about cooperating with some of the local groups that want to have alternate walking/jogging trails along the North Shore Road?  You’ve already got the heavy work done, thanks to the new utility pole line that runs parallel to the scenic beach road on Rt. 20… why not get some signage and benches and help smooth out the rough places and make a contribution to the community instead of getting us riled up? 

I mean, opening at least the fringes of the ‘park’ would help make the mythic misconception true, that it is a ‘park’ you can enjoy without a machete.

I know you are probably understaffed, but some times you don’t need a lot of funding and red tape to get stuff done. The more you link up with service groups and organizations and clubs that also do good works as part of their programs, the more the load is shared, and the more the community is involved and provided a vehicle to give back some of our good fortune to be able to live here.

I would especially like you to approach the Friends of the Park to video some of their presentations so they could be checked out by schools to EDUCATE the youth. The guest lectures, historical talks, and environmental series sound very interesting.
I’ve only been to one because $30 is a bit much to keep paying — I have no idea how a St. Johnian family with a few kids could attend on a regular basis or even a “family night” out ….but the topics are always about important information the Park should be getting out to the next generation, who need to know where they come from, what is happening today, and why they may have to be the ones to fix it. 

Why not provide such an alternate activity for families to provide quality time together?  Go to the lecture, video, etc at the steeply discounted “Family Rate”… I mean isn’t the ultimate goal to save and preserve by passing on the information?
Why focus solely on the plantation/slave days….even though for a tourist, the scarce signage at spots such as Annaberg leave too much to the imagination. What you do have with photos included is good, but too little. 

Why not CELEBRATE the period after emancipation up to the recent past, when the founding St. Johnians survived, built strong communities (East End history), strong families, made contributions, enriched knowledge, survived with determination, good will, strength of character, to build the place and supply the spirit that has attracted so many of us here. 

Why do you not research and honor that?  Danish ruins, slavery, uprisings, U.S. presence, and Laurence Rockefeller are only part of what happened here. 

I’d like to know more about the families that stayed on here and how they wrung a life out of this rocky place, what was the little settlement like that’s half-way down the Reef Bay Trail, the schoolhouse ruins on the way to Annaberg, have some of the old architecture pointed out to tourists, know how the East End residents formed their economy, and if I was a child, how my ancestors triumphed with the little they had and a lot of common sense. 

How does a St. Johnian schoolchild bloom if he is way down on the list from the press that is given to the Tainos and the Danes? How does one emotionally heal from the past without being exposed to the accomplishments that add to one’s self esteem?

Surprise us.

Judith Kane, St. John