Public Road Is Now Private Drive As Park Closes Route 204 to Clinic

Public Road? What Road? In defiance of historic native St. Johnian opposition to the National Park Service’s closures of historic island roads which have prevented native landowners from reaching historic private “inholdings” with the VINP boundaries, VINP officials appear to have closed a designated public road, Route 204 through Estate Susannaberg which connects Route 20, Centerline Road, to Route 10, North Shore Road, at Peace Hill above Hawksnest Bay. Proponents of reopening the closed road and improving it for public access argue that it would represent the most direct route from north shore beaches in the V.I. National Park to emergency services at the Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center in Susannaberg. Interestingly, the chain blocking the road is padlocked, but the chain easily lifts off the hook on the post. The road closure and access to inholdings may be up for discussion at the May 26 Town Meeting featuring VINP officials at the St. John Legislature at 6 p.m.

ST. JOHN — The National Park Service has closed a road and may have opened a new front in the decades-old battle over historic island roads through the Virgin Islands National Park holdings on St. John.

St. John Senator at Large Almando “Rocky” Liburd has repeatedly questioned the federal agency’s continued refusal to allow native property owners access to their inholdings within the park — including at a recent town hall meeting with freshman Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett.

VINP officials, meanwhile, have ignored the native “hot-button” issue and instead without fanfare have closed the public road, designated Route 204, from Susannaberg which connects Route 10, Centerline Road, to Route 20, North Shore Road, at Peace Hill above Hawksnest Bay. 

The closure of the estate road, the upper portion of which is well-maintained, appears to favor to the two influential owners of major private homes on inholdings overlooking the North Shore.

Recent controversy over the construction of a much ballyhooed home of modern architectural design by a renowned New York designer, which was constructed alongside the right of way and overlooks the valley above Denis Bay, included criticism that the house impinged on the right of way for the designated Route 204. 

Now Route 204 has become a private driveway which runs from Estate Susannaberg and ends at the graveled parking area of the controversial house.  The unmarked 50-foot wide road that formerly connected the north shore of the island to Estate Susannaberg behind the Jones family’s roadside stand on Route 10 appears to end in a service area below the modern marvel and has been closed since sometime last year, according a man leaving the residence on Saturday, May 23. 

The entrance to Route 204 on North Shore Road, is adjacent to the private driveway entrance for several vacation rental homes and a majestic private residence on property formerly owned by the late John Gibney.

While at least one neighboring property owner had objected to the construction of the architectural marvel higher up on the public road right of way, apparently both property owners are happy the National Park Service has restricted public access.

At a recent public meeting with Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett, St. John Senator at Large Almando “Rocky” Liburd raised the VINP roads issue with the freshman member of the U.S. Congress.

The NPS road closures have been a pet peeve of Sen. Liburd, who remembers the north shore roads of his youth from Coral Bay through Annaberg and Leinster Bay. 

But it appears the NPS has not been “studying” the native issue — or the island’s Senator at Large.