Friends To Kick off Revamped Seminar Series This Month

Ever wondered how to make your home more environmentally friendly, or what to do with all those plastic grocery bags you collect after each trip to the store? The Friends of the V.I. National Park will help answer these important questions and many more with its annual Seminar Series, kicking off January 16.

The Friends’ popular Seminar Series includes some new events this year — such as a “Green Building House Tour” with Island Green Building Association founder Doug White and “Eco Weaving” with teacher and artist Idalia Scimeca — and some old favorites as well, such as the archaeology boat trip with VINP Archaeologist Ken Wild and “A Glimpse Into St. John’s Past” with island elder and educator Guy Benjamin.

The Green Building House Tour will help those interested in IGBA’s new green building certification program to learn more about living in an environmentally friendly environment, explained Friends Program Manager Kristen Maize.

“Doug will take us to a couple homes where they have solar panels, wetland restoration projects and all sorts of different green elements,” said Maize. “This is a way for people to learn more about the little things they can do in their house, or the big things they can do in terms of designing a home.”

At the Eco Weaving seminar, Scimeca — whose woven bags are sold in the Friends of the Park store — will teach guests how to make resuable woven bags from recycled grocery bags.

“We sell these bags in our store, and they’re beautifully woven,” said Maize. “She cuts the grocery bags into very thin strips and crochets them. I love the bags, and she likes to teach people, so I think it will be very cool.”

Now in its ninth year, the Seminar Series has become a fundraiser for the Friends enjoyed by both tourists and locals, explained Maize.

“I start getting emails as early as September from people saying when their trips are and wondering what seminars are scheduled during those dates,” said Maize. “A lot of people get very into it during their vacation. The boat trips usually attract tourists, while locals enjoy a lot of the hikes.”

Pastel Workshops, Botanical Hike
Other new seminars this year include two pastel workshops with local artist Livy Hitchcock at Caneel Bay Resort. The seminars are open to both amateurs and experienced artists, and Hitchock will be on hand to teach the basics and answer questions.

A botanical hike through Estate Maho Bay with local botanist Eleanor Gibney will offer guests the opportunity to learn about native plants, and to see the property recently preserved by the Trust for Public Land.

At the VINP Archive Tour and Slide Show, guests will take a sneak peek into the park’s archives, explained Maize.

“The Park has really amazing archives of both natural and cultural resources stored in a small building at the Biosphere,” she said. “Museum curator Susanna Pershern will give a tour of the building, and then we’ll watch a slide show of historic photos. It’s really neat information for anyone who likes the park and St. John and loves to snoop — they have some very fun archives.”

Another new seminar this year is the Day Out East — a hike and snorkel off Yawzi Point with VINP Ranger Laurel Brannick, followed by lunch at VIERS in Lameshur Bay. The snorkel will take guests to an underwater world not usually seen in other areas of the island’s surrounding ocean, explained Maize.

Seminars Fill Up Quickly
The Seminar Series is a major fundraiser for the Friends, and a way for locals and tourists alike to see what the VINP has to offer.

“Most of the instructors donate their time to us, and most of the vendors and boat owners donate their services, so it’s a really wonderful thing,” said Maize. “It’s exciting that so many people are willing to donate their time, and there are so many people who are willing to pay to take part in the seminars each year.”

The seminars are open to everyone, but guests should sign up sdoon, as space is limited and the seminars fill up quickly, Maize continued.

“You should sign up as soon as possible, because they really do fill up fast,” she said. “I’m really happy with our series this year. It’s a fun way for people to learn more about the park and to get out there and get involved.”

To sign up for a seminar, call the Friends at 779-4940 or email Brochures with more information are available at the Friends of the Park Store in Mongoose Junction. For a complete seminar schedule, see page 22.

2008 Friends of VINP Seminar Series Schedule

January 16, Wednesday – Reptile Hike — Search for reptiles along the Reef Bay Trail with reptile expert Dr. Renata Platenberg, and enjoy a boat ride around St. John’s south shore back to Cruz Bay.      

January 19, Saturday – Green Building House Tour* — Tour beautiful island homes exhibiting components of alternative, eco-friendly building/living with St. John builder and one of the founders of Island Green Building Association, Doug White. Part of the proceeds goes to support IGBA.

January 23, Wednesday – Full Moon Hike — Hike to the top of Ram Head and explore the southernmost point of St. John with park ranger Don Near. Learn about the fascinating natural and cultural history that exists there.

January 26, Saturday – Archaeology Boat Trip I — Set a course through prehistory with park archaeologist Ken Wild while visiting St. John’s shores by boat.

January 27, Sunday – Marine Biology Boat Trip I — Snorkel the underwater treasures of St. John’s reefs with a NPS marine biologist aboard the classic power boat, Cinnamon Bay.

January 30, Wednesday – Beach Cat Adventure Sail — Enjoy a wet and thrilling ride aboard a Hobie Getaway, as you sail to Congo and Lovango Cays and discover the history and ecology of the area from nature guide Han Winogrond.

February 2, Saturday – Native Plant Hike — Hike with Dr. Gary Ray, botanist and plant ecologist, on the Cinnamon Bay Trail and learn about St. John’s rich and fascinating communities of native plants.

February 3, Sunday – Eco Weaving* —  Learn to make lovely woven bags from discarded plastic grocery bags with teacher and artist, Idalia Scimeca. 

February 9, Saturday – Coastal Ecology — Circumnavigate St. John with VINP’s Chief of Resource Management Rafe Boulon, and learn about the mangroves, seagrass beds, and coral reefs that fringe our island’s coastlines.

February 16, Saturday – Afro-Caribbean Drumming — Join master drummer Eddie Bruce and learn basic entertainment and ritual drumming techniques of West African and Afro-Caribbean cultures. 

February 17, Sunday – A Glimpse into St. John’s Past — Travel to back time with Guy Benjamin as he shares memories of his youth in the early 1900s when only a couple hundred homes existed on St. John and donkeys were still the mode of transportation.

February 23, Saturday – Archaeology Boat Trip II — Set a course through prehistory with Park Archaeologist Ken Wild while visiting bays along St. John.

February 24, Sunday – Pastels Workshop I* — Learn the technique of pastels as you create tropical landscapes at Caneel Bay under the instruction of renowned local artist Livy Hitchcock.

February 27, Wednesday – Seed Bead Jewelry — Join park ranger Deanna Somerville and learn to make necklaces out of collected island treasures- seeds from local plants.

March 1, Saturday – Kayak the Mangroves of Hurricane Hole — Kayak with Arawak Expeditions through the Coral Reef National Monument, stopping to snorkel in the mangroves and seagrass beds.

March 2, Sunday – Botanical Hike* — Local botanist Eleanor Gibney will lead you on a botany hike on an old estate road through the recently preserved Estate Maho Bay.  Explore this lush terrain, learning about St. John’s native plants.    

March 8, Saturday – Stars and Their Stories — Relax, lie back and let astrologer and mythologist Kelley Hunter guide you through the constellations of the night sky.

March 9, Sunday – Pastels Workshop II* — Learn the technique of pastels as you create tropical landscapes at Caneel Bay under the instruction of renowned local artist Livy Hitchcock.

March 15, Saturday – Sea Turtle Sail — Sail the Castaway Girl II to Buck Island, St. Thomas with park ranger and turtle specialist, Christy Loomis, and swim with the many green and hawksbill turtles that make Buck Island their home year round.  

March 16, Sunday – Marine Biology Sail II — Snorkel the underwater treasures of St. John’s reefs with a NPS marine biologist aboard the catamaran, Calypso.

March 22, Saturday – Coral Reef Boat Tour — Snorkel areas along St. John’s shoreline with USGS marine ecologist Caroline Rogers and learn about the corals found in VI waters.

March 29, Saturday – VINP Archive Tour and Slideshow* — Join VINP museum curator, Susanna Pershern, on a private tour through the Park’s archives stored in the Bally Building, and a slideshow of historic, and rarely seen images.

April 5, Saturday – Day out East* — Join NPS ranger, Laurel Brannick, on a hike and snorkel off Yawzi Point, followed by lunch at VIERS in Lameshur Bay.

April 6, Sunday – Traditional West Indian Cooking — With the help of Ms. Joyce Sprauve you will learn hands-on how to prepare some traditional West Indians dishes, such as roti, pate, and johnny cake.

April 9, Wednesday – Snorkel Tour — Snorkel the reefs off Caneel Bay with snorkel guide Lucile Portlock, and have someone on hand to familiarize you with St. John’s marine creatures.

April 12, Saturday – Garden Workshop — Garden with Irene Patton, and take part in a basic, hands-on gardening discussion on the pleasures and challenges of gardening in the semi-arid climate of St. John.  *Seminar is new this year