St. John Tradewinds News

Public Hears First Details About New VI Historic Preservation Plan

VI State Archaeologist David Brewer shares thoughts on historic preservation during town meeting held at Cruz Bay Legislature on Sept. 13.
St. John Tradewinds photo by Judi Shimel. [hr gap=”1″]

CRUZ BAY – Members of the public and the St. John Historical Society recently learned more about the government’s plans to preserve the timeless treasures of the Virgin Islands.

Information about a draft five-year historic preservation plan was presented at a town meeting held Sept. 13 in the Cruz Bay Legislative Conference Room.

The director of the Virgin Islands State Historic Preservation Office said the plan works toward meeting a national mandate for states and territories, using funds provided by the National Park Service. The Virgin Islands is now working to replace an expired plan first adopted in 2008, said SHPO Director Sean Krigger.

“This five year plan is a broad overview of the historical and cultural resources of the respective state,” Krigger said.

Krigger was joined at the Sept. 13 town meeting by Virgin Islands State Archaeologist David Brewer and two researchers from the University of Alabama, Dr. Brooke Persons and Dr. Matt Gage.

With funding provided by the National Park Service and guidance from the National Historic Preservation Act, states and territories are directed to develop five year plans. Holding town meetings, engaging the public, inviting comment and feedback is of the steps towards moving the preservation plan towards certification.

The plans set out how the Virgin Islands will preserve it’s historical sites, buildings listed in the National Historic Registry, archaeological sites, architectural features, documents and artifacts.

Plans can be grand and sometimes mundane, Krigger said. He pointed to a Federal Highways road project in Charlotte Amalie that in 2014 unearthed a Salaldoid era tribal village near the Rothschild Francis Market Square.

The road project was temporarily halted by SHPO and boxes of artifacts retrieved by a team of archaeologists flown in from Florida. The discovery proved it to be a major historic find for the Virgin Islands, Krigger said. But, he added, more care has to be given in the new five year plan to preserve historic places that are already known to exist. If they don’t received the proper attention and preservation, he said, they will no longer exist.

“We have to start making physical improvements to our resources, because if we don’t we’re going to lose them,” he said.

Former VI State Archaeologist Persons, now with the University of Alabama, laid out some of the positive and negative trends seen from a historic preservation viewpoint.

In parts of the Virgin Islands, major efforts have been made to preserve ancient treasures. In other places, she said, artifacts have been found but with no steps taken to preserve them.

To keep those artifacts from disintegrating they will have to be catalogued and transferred into protective casings. The ultimate goal of these efforts, she said, would be to preserve and display the items in a permanent museum setting.

Persons also reminded the gathering that historic sites also exist off shore in Virgin Islands waters. They also have to be protected from dredging and construction of marine facilities.

The preservation team also said SHPO is working with St. John historian David Knight with hopes of having the town of Cruz Bay declared a historic preservation site. Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas, Christainsted and Frederiksted on St. Croix already have those designations. It allows the towns to maintain their architectural features and encourages interest in historic sites located in those areas.

For more information on the plan, a draft  can be downloaded at the following link:

http://museums.ua.edu/oar/usvi/

Interested persons and preservation partners will have the opportunity to complete an online survey available here:

U.S. Virgin Islands Statewide Historic Preservation Plan Survey

The direct link to the survey is located at
https://universityofalabama.az1.qualtrics.com/SE/…

Anyone from the Public wishing to submit any comments regarding changes in the plan, please feel free to contact the plan coordinator, Dr. Brooke Persons, directly at abpersons@ua.edu or at usvipreservationplan@gmail.com

For more information, contact Sean L. Krigger, Acting Director of the Virgin Islands State Historic Preservation Office at the Charles W. Turnbull Regional Library at 776-8605.