Op-ed: Protecting and Showing Reverence for Nature

Lifeguard Keeps Watch Magens Bay Beach (Photo: Chuck Munson)

Dear Members of the 33rd Senate:

The Magens Bay Authority has been a great steward of Magens Bay, protecting its resources for visitors and residents to enjoy for this and future generations. This includes the care and cleaning of Drake’s Seat one of our most popular scenic vistas for locals and tourists.

Importantly, the Magens Bay authority is self-funding by charging reasonable fees for entry into the park after 8 a.m. The V.I. Police Department does an excellent job keeping the public safe, regularly patrolling both beaches and making their presence visible and known.

Not only is it a beautiful scenic beach but also a tree, wildlife and marine sanctuary. For many years, I have swum daily there often, seeing spotted eagle rays, turtles, occasional porpoises, all manner of fish, giant tarpon, seagulls, egrets, frigate and booby birds.

Before the hurricanes, walking through the arboretum and nature trail was a magical experience with towering trees and a variety of birds singing and chirping. We can only hope in time it will slowly be restored through nature’s cycle of regeneration.

The Authority has done an equally commendable job with the Lindqvist beach now called the Smith Bay Park. That property, I recall, was taken by the Senate many years ago under eminent domain laws because it was viewed as such an important resource to our islands and had to be protected for the public good.

Magens Bay and Lindqvist are sanctuaries of beauty and ecology that enable the preservation of marine and wildlife, and various species of plants and trees. And like any national and state parks, they are important drivers of our economy.

Many people are employed directly by the Authority. Taxis bring tourists who spend money at the concessions, and gross receipts are paid to our central government. Weddings take place and important charity fundraisers are held that benefit community causes. Families and children regularly picnic safely with lifeguards on duty.

The Senate should consider adopting Vessup Beach and Brewers into our park system if the funding can be found and allocated so they are forever protected from development. Entry wouldn’t necessarily be fee driven. That would have to be studied very carefully.

In contrast, when one drives to or from the airport passing Emerald Beach, you regularly see litter that’s been tossed out or left lying above the beach line near the road.

As one recent Daily News letter writer pointed out: there’s a lot of litter being thrown out of cars that now occupy the side of the road throughout St. Thomas. We need to change this behavior and mindset through law, increased fines and educational public outreach and signage.

Showing reverence for nature is the right thing to do for the health of our planet. It is also good business for a tourist driven economy.

The famous American conservationist and one of the fathers of our National Parks John Muir famously wrote:

“Everybody needs beauty… places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and give strength to the body and soul alike.”

Editor’s note: Filippo Cassinelli runs A.H. Riise Mall on St. Thomas, which has been in his family since 1928.