Friends of VINP 2013 Seminar Series To Offer Everything from Glass Blowing to Kayak Adventures


From creating beautiful blown glass flowers to learning the rich history of Hassel Island, Friends of V.I. National Park’s 2013 Seminar Series offers something for everyone.

This year, the group is offering a total of 45 seminars starting with the January 5 Reef Fish Identification Boat Trip on Low Key with Laurel Brannick.

While keeping the popular boat trips and hiking adventures, VINP’s program manager Audrey Penn also made sure to include some new offerings this year.

“We have our popular boat trips on Kekoa and Low Key,” said Penn. “We couldn’t stop those; people love them. But we have 17 new seminars this year that we haven’t offered before.”

One of the most exciting seminars, which Penn is looking forward to, will be the Lovango Sustainable Design Tour.

“I think this is one of the coolest seminars we’re offering because I did a lot of my growing up on Lovango,” Penn said. “Dan Boyd will pick us up on his boat Sea Biscuit and take us over to Lovango and show us how they live off the grid. They have windmills and chickens and they respect the land.”

“Lovango is right there and you see it every day and people probably think that no one is out there,” she said. “But people live there and I think we can all learn from how they live. The seminar will touch on history, sustainability, art and culture and more.”

The series wraps up on April 22, Earth Day, with a tour of the sustainable design at Estate Concordia Preserve, explained Penn.

“That one is close to my heart too because I used to work at Concordia,” she said. “We’ll be touring the grounds and learning about their sustainable design methods and we’ll end the day with happy hour at their cafe. Concordia will also be treating seminar participants to appetizers as well.”

Between January and April, however, Friends of VINP is offering numerous seminars encompassing everything from hiking and yoga to drumming and kayak trips.

“V.I. Eco Tours donated a few trips so we’ll be heading out to Hassel Island on kayaks and enjoy lunch out there,” said the VINP programs manager. “We’ll also be hiking and snorkeling with VI Eco Tours and do their Caneel Bay excursion.”

Artists will not want to miss a Tropical Light Photography Seminar with renowned local photographer Steve Simonsen, or a pastel class with popular local artist Livy Hitchcock. Ann Riehl will host a Wet Oil Painting Seminar while Maho Bay Camps will offer a Batik Seminar using natural plant dye.

Or take in a Sustainable Design Tour at Doug White’s eco-cottage at Privateer Bay. Join local yoga instructor Lori Walden on a Lind Point hike ending with a few standing poses at Honeymoon Beach.

History buffs should mark their calendars for a tour of downtown Charlotte Amalie with historian Felipe Alaya as well as a historic tour of Lameshur Bay with Randy Brown.

U.S. Geological Survey marine biologist Jeff Miller will lead a fish identification sail aboard Kekoa, while Eleanor Gibney will lead a hike on a trail even Penn thinks she hasn’t yet traversed.

“We’re trying to get some of our regular participants to check out something new,” said Penn. “So Eleanor will be taking us on a hike starting in the Susanaberg area and ending at Peace Hill. I’m pretty sure even I have not been on that trail.”

So many local residents offered their expertise and talents for seminars this year, Penn couldn’t accept them all, she explained.
“There’s a lot of interest in and a lot of support for our seminar series,” said Penn. “So many people are donating boats and donating their time. It’s exciting to have so many new ideas and new programs.”

“But there were so many, I couldn’t include everyone this year,” she said. “By the time I get the seminar brochure printed, I have new ideas and offers for next year.”

Some classes are very limited in size and are filling up quickly. Friends of VINP members enjoy a $10 discount on all seminars, which range in price depending on the activity. With Friends of VINP memberships only costing $30 for an individual, by signing up for three seminars, membership pays for itself.

And the funds support Friends of VINP’s many important cultural and educational programs.

“The seminars are really unique and they fill up fast,” said Penn. “We already have people asking about them. And they make great Christmas presents or gifts for anytime of year.”

For more information about the 2013 Friends Seminar Series, check out the group’s website at or call Friends of VINP at 779-4940.