VINP Moves Historic Caneel Hill Trail To Avoid Private Homesite

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A directional sign sits on the old Caneel Hill trail which took hikers through private land–giving them a close-up view of a newly-built house, above, and taking them through the construction site of another home. The trail has been moved off the private land.

A V.I. National Park trail which took hikers over private land has been moved inside the park’s boundaries, according to Rafe Boulon, VINP chief of resource management.

The discovery was made when property owner Tom Bertolino realized people were hiking across the site of his future home — after he cleared vegetation in the first stages of building his house, explained Boulon, who grew up on the north shore of St. John.

The confusion occurred because the historic trail was not taken into account when the lines were drawn for private and VINP properties in the area, according to Boulon.

“The old Caneel Hill was a historic trail, and it’s been maintained by the park for decades,” he said. “It wasn’t until somebody started developing private land along the trail that we became aware that the trail was along private land. The trail goes just over the boundary onto private land.”

VINP Notified by Property Owner
The property owner notified the VINP, which moved the historic trail off of the private land and onto VINP land.

“In the last month or so, we’ve re-cut the trail along that portion of it that was on private land, so not only are the land owners protected from people walking through their back yard, but people on the trail don’t have to see the development,” said Boulon. “We couldn’t move it too far away because of a steep slope on the north, so we moved it 30 to 50 feet into the woods, parallel to the old trail.”

The construction work is still visible from the trail at times.

“When it’s very dry, you can see through the trees, and see that something is happening there, but you’re not walking through a construction site, which you basically were doing before,” said Boulon. “There was nothing between the trail and these people building houses. It’s like you’re walking through the woods, and then all of a sudden, woah, you’re in a construction zone.”

The private property owner discovered the trail was on his land almost immediately after he began clearing vegetation to build a home.

“It wasn’t until they started cutting some vegetation to develop the land that they discovered that the trail was on their property,” said Boulon. “It’s a long-established trail, and has been there for hundreds of years.”

Bertolino said he was pleased with how the Park handled the situation.

“I’m so happy,” he said.