St. John Tradewinds News

Friends VINP Announce the Reopening of Francis Bay Walking Trail

Image courtesy of Yelena Rogers Photography.

Friends of Virgin Islands National Park is pleased to announce the reopening of the Francis Bay Walking Trail, which had been heavily damaged during Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

The boardwalk safely weaves park visitors through the forest of sea grape, maho, and mangroves between the beach and the salt pond, offering a unique and valuable opportunity for people to peacefully observe the animals and plants that thrive in the marsh-like ecosystem. Since the Friends first constructed the handicap-accessible boardwalk more than 10 years ago, VINP has offered weekly Ranger-led birding hikes and provided field trips to hundreds of classrooms.

Additionally, the boardwalk is noted as a prime bird-watching trail by the VI Audubon Society and has been visited by scores of professional and amateur ornithologists. With the reconstruction of the boardwalk, these activities may resume.

Work to restore the trail began on April 16 with the Friends’ trail rehabilitation crew led by Friends Trails Coordinator Mark Gestwicki and Friends President Joe Kessler. Over the course of the restoration project dozens of volunteers joined the crew, including a young men’s service group from the Foundation House of Portland, Maine.

Most of the boardwalk and its lumber was able to be salvaged, however, the process of recouping materials and rebuilding required creative field engineering. All areas of the trail are open and passable as a result of these individuals’ diligent and thoughtful labor. (Please note that the first viewing platform will be completed as soon as the water recedes.)

The Friends would like to share special appreciation for the considerable efforts and time given by Jeff Chabot, as well as to Todd Roskin for his contribution of lumber. The project was partially financed with donations from the VI Audubon Society, the Keely Family, memorial gifts made by friends and family of Mark Moroney, and members of the Friends of Virgin Islands National Park.

For inquiries regarding volunteer opportunities in VI National Park with the Friends please contact Karen Jarvis at kjarvis@friendsvinp.org or call (340) 779-4940.