During a return visit to the Virgin Islands this week, National Park Service (NPS) Southeast Regional Director Bob Vogel announced the immediate leadership realignment of the national parks in the Caribbean.
Noting the shared geography and other common factors uniting Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands Park units on St. John and St. Croix, Vogel stressed the need for park-specific leadership on each of the three islands.
“It is encouraging to see the great work that is happening in the Virgin Islands. I want to further accelerate the rebuilding of park infrastructure, the hiring of local residents and strengthening of park partnerships,” he said.
The realignment calls for three independent superintendents on the three Caribbean islands who will each directly report to the regional directorate in Atlanta. Since July 2017 the six NPS Caribbean parks were reporting to a Caribbean Group Superintendent based in San Juan.
Vogel announced the official approval of a local hiring authority for certain entry level positions for residents of St. John and St. Thomas. Virgin Islands National Park (VINP) aims to use this new authority to fill eligible positions in the coming months.
Vogel toured the park to assess the progress with hurricane recovery and met with park staff and partners. Hurricane recovery projects that aim to restore visitor services, rebuild destroyed park offices and housing, and partnership efforts such as Virgin Islands Ecological Research Station (VIERS) were described as the Southeast Region’s top priority. Over $60 million dollars in Department of Interior recovery funds are expected to be spent in the Virgin Islands.