VINP Natural Resource Manager Thomas Kelley points out one of two anchoring fields in park waters.
V.I. National Park and Coral Reef National Monument officials last week released the newest Superintendent’s Compendium, which includes a smoking ban on all beaches and new anchoring guidelines.
The compendium is issued each year by the Superintendent and sets out specific closures, requirements and other restrictions. This year’s compendium was signed by VINP Acting Superintendent Mike Anderson on Wednesday, February 20, when VINP officials also hosted a press conference at the Visitors’ Center to discuss new regulations.
The document officially bans smoking on all VINP beaches, which are defined as “the area between the waters edge and 50 feet landward or seaward.” Smoking is also not allowed within the interior portions or 50 feet from any National Park Service building, within 50 feet of pavilions, picnic tables and restrooms and at locations posted as no smoking areas, according to the compendium.
VINP officials will post “No Smoking” signs at several beaches and place receptacles for cigarette butts at Hawksnest Beach, Cinnamon Bay and Trunk Bay.
While the smoking ban is official, VINP rangers haven’t issued a citation to anyone yet and don’t plan to anytime soon, according to VINP Chief Ranger Lloyd Morris.
“The fine would be a $25 ticket, plus the processing fee,” said Morris. “We haven’t written a fine yet and we don’t want to. We are just asking people to comply with this, as we’ll be phasing it in.”
“Right now we’re trying to get accurate information out to people to make a conscious effort to dispose of their cigarette butts in a receptacle,” Morris said. “I think two years down the road, this will be something that is very well received.”
Citizens asked to put out their cigarettes, should comply and anyone who doesn’t will be “setting” themselves up for a ticket, Anderson added.
The 2013 VINP Superintendent’s Compendium also spelled out new anchoring guidelines for vessels in VINP waters.
With about 213 moorings spread throughout VINP from Caneel Bay to Lameshur Bay, officials continue to move toward making the park anchor-free, explained VINP Natural Resource Manager Thomas Kelley.
About 200 of the park’s moorings are capable of holding vessels up to 60 feet and VINP contractors recently installed 13 moorings capable of accommodating boats up to 100 feet.
Boat operators who chose to not use a mooring must anchor in one of two locations; an area off Lind Point, or an area near Francis Bay in 50 feet of water. The exact GPS coordinates of the two anchoring fields are available at the VINP Visitor’s Center and are also included in this year’s Compendium, Kelley explained.
Anchoring is also allowed in Cruz Bay near the old sea plane ramp, but only for three hours, according to Kelley.
The fee for spending a night in VINP, whether at anchor or on a mooring, is $15, Kelley added.
“Vessel operators are required to pay the $15 fee whether they are on a mooring or on their own anchor,” he said.
VINP officials urge all vessel operators to use moorings when possible.
While the $15 mooring fee is the same for all moorings, that fee might increase soon and the new structure might be tiered, according to Kelley.
“We’ve initiated administrative procedures to consider increasing fees for moorings across the board because the cost of maintaining the moorings has increased,” he said. “When we started the fee program 13 years ago, we were below average and we’ve not had an increase.”
The process of increasing mooring fees will take “about a year, maybe longer,” said Kelley.
This year’s VINP Superintendent’s Compendium also included the White Cliffs area closure on the park’s south shore in order to protect the endangered plant Eugenia earhartii.
The entire compendium is available at the VINP Visitor’s Center.