ICOFORT Group Tours St. John Ruins and Forts

(L to R): Dr. Gilbert Sprauve, Myron Jackson, Superintendent VINP Mark R. Hardgrove, Architect Deborah Rehn, Prof. Roy Graham, (behind him) Architect  David Hansen, Historian Doris M. Diaz, Ann Baird, Milagros Flores ICOFORT President, Chuck Pishko, Dr. John Schofield, VINP Ranger David Horner.

A group of fortification and military heritage experts from around the world toured St. John over three days last week for what could be the first step in realizing the first World Heritage Site in the Virgin Islands.

Members of the International Committee on Fortifications and Military Heritage (ICOFORT) toured St. John June 5 through 8 after wrapping up tours of Puerto Rico, St. Croix, Hassle Island and St. Thomas as part of the group’s annual meeting, explained ICOFORT president Milagros Flores.

“Every year we have an annual meeting somewhere and this year we voted to have it in the Caribbean,” said Flores, who is also the Caribbean historian for the National Park Service.

On St. John, the group visited the Cruz Bay Battery, the Caneel Bay, Annaberg Plantation and Cinnamon Bay Plantation ruins and Fortsberg. While the Spanish fortifications in San Juan are already a World Heritage Site, Danish and British fortifications are not represented with a heritage designation, explained Flores.

“Danish fortifications are really quite unique, but they are not represented as a World Heritage Site yet,” said Flores. “We wanted to take a closer look at the Danish and British fortification components here. While we were touring here we we thought it would be good to take a look and see if local historians had any interest in looking to pursue a nomination for a World Heritage Site.”

Although there is local interest in the possibility of attaining the designation of a World Heritage Site locally, the process — which has not yet even begun — can take years, according to Flores.

“We haven’t started the process yet,” she said. “We were really just looking to see if there was interest to start the process and we found that yes there is interest. But it is a very long process and can entail years of studies.”

Along with Flores, Dr. Gilbert Sprauve, Myron Jackson, VINP Superintendent Mark Hardgrove, VINP Ranger David Horner and Chuck Pishko showed the international fortification experts the highlights of St. John forts and ruins.