Governor John deJongh and members of the Audubon Society of the Virgin Islands gathered recently at the Cruz Bay Battery on St. John to execute a Memorandum of Agreement for Frank Bay Pier. Looking on is Department of Property and Procurement Commissioner Lynn Millin Maduro at far right.
At a signing ceremony on Friday afternoon, September 13, at the Cruz Bay Battery, Governor John deJongh entered into a formal agreement with the Virgin Islands Audubon Society that will allow the territory’s bird lovers to develop a new observation pier into the Frank Bay Marine Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary on St. John.
The agreement permits the Audubon Society to extend the observation pier at the preserve just outside of Cruz Bay while freeing the territory’s government from any liability associated with the project. The V.I. Audubon Society will oversee construction and purchase insurance for the site, the memorandum of agreement stipulates.
When completed, the wooden walkway and pier will create a special vantage point from which to observe and appreciate the diverse and spectacular birds that inhabit the sanctuary. It will allow observers for the first time to view the full pond without disturbing its avian inhabitants doing the important work of breeding and nourishing themselves. The project will also add new signs offering information to visitors about Frank Bay and its wildlife.
“The great ornithologist and naturalist John James Audubon said a true conservationist knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children,” said deJongh. “The native and migratory birds that populate our islands are a part of our children’s inheritance.”
“Those birds — the Great Blue Herons, Black-necked Stilts, Spotted Sandpipers and so many other magnificent species — need refuges on these islands for rest and sustenance; the health of their population depends on sanctuaries like Frank Bay that are safe from predatory animals and unspoiled by human development,” said the governor.
The new infrastructure at the Frank Bay sanctuary will enhance public awareness and understanding of a unique wildlife environment, and the local and migratory birds that populate it, by allowing visitors to view them in their natural habitat, the governor explained.
“This, above all else, I consider a gift to our children, who in their backyard will find a world-class outdoor classroom that no amount of technology could replace,” deJongh said.
The small pond at Frank Bay is a favorite outing for Julius E. Sprauve School students. After a walk over Kambeck Hill backstreets to the small pond at Frank Bay, they are able to observe a number of the island’s varied bird species including White-cheeked Pintails, Great Blue Herons, Black-necked Stilts, Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpipers, and other species pointed out by V.I. National Park Education Specialist, Laurel Brannick, who is a V.I. Audubon member and former president of the society.
The students’ enjoyment when VI Audubon members build the newly approved pier out into the pond. is sure to only be enhanced, explained Terry Pishko, VI Audubon Society vice-president and coordinator of the Frank Bay pier project.
“The pier will allow the students to look back onto the reforested shoreline where birds go to feed and escape the sun,” said Pishko.
The shoreline plantings were completed more than a decade ago by Eleanor Gibney with help from Virginia Thornthwaite and other volunteers. Tourists will also enjoy these improvements, which only a short walk from the ferry dock, Pishko added.
The MOA which was signed between deJongh and VI Audubon Society on September 13 allows the group to make the critical addition of the pier.
At the signing ceremony at the Cruz Bay Battery, the governor noted that the wildlife sanctuary is part of St. John children’s inheritance.
VI Audubon Society members will soon begin work on building this extended viewing pier. Society members thanked Governor deJongh and the government officials who had a hand in preserving this project as well as VI Audubon Society members who have worked on the pond over the past decade.