Rafe Boulon, photographed in uniform in 2009, retired from the VINP at the end of December.
Growing up on the shoreline of Trunk Bay, there was never any question that Rafe Boulon would spend his life working to protect local marine resources.
After a storied career spanning 18 years with the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources’ Division of Fish and Wildlife and another 14 years at V.I. National Park, Boulon retired late last year.
December 28 was Boulon’s last official day serving as VINP’s Chief of Resource Management. Looking back over his career, Boulon, 60, was most proud of the land he helped to acquire for VINP.
“What has brought me the most satisfaction has been my land acquisition work,” said Boulon. “From Maho Bay Estate to Nanny Point, Beverhoudstberg and several different parcels at Hawksnest, in the time that I have worked with the park, the land area has been increased by 8 percent.”
“That is a significant amount,” Boulon said. “I don’t think the park is going to get much bigger; the rest of the land is either too highly priced or developed.”
Another area of particular accomplishment for Boulon was helping to create a successful Storm Mooring Program in Hurricane Hole, he explained.
“Another thing that I’ve been really proud of is the Hurricane Hole Storm Mooring program, which was something that I wanted to do back with DPNR in Benner Bay,” said Boulon. “We could never find the funding or the political will to do it on St Thomas. But when the water part of Hurricane Hole became a national monument, we had the opportunity to protect the resources there.”
Boulon’s work in the Hurricane Hole area dates back to the mid-1980s, he added.
“My history with Hurricane Hole goes back to the mid-80s when I did a three-year habitat study in the area,” said the VINP’s former Chief of Resource Management. “Hurricane Hole is one of the most pristine and valuable habitats for juvenile fish in the entire Virgin Islands. It’s a super important area and the basis for it is the mangroves.”
“The prop roots and the rest of it — the clean water and the low disturbance — we wanted to do that to make sure we maintain the area,” he said.
As a native St. Johnian and one time boat owner, Boulon also knew just how important the area is as a safe haven for vessels during storms.
“I knew it was also such an important hurricane refuge area for local boaters as well,” he said.
With both his local knowledge and relationships with residents, Boulon was able to keep boaters happy while making sure the area was protected.
“We walked that fine line between use and conservation which you are always walking,” he said. “You are always looking for that balance between use and protection. That is was resource management is all about; trying to find ways people can use and experience an area and protect the resources.”
While Boulon will not be the VINP’s Chief of Resource Management next hurricane season, he has agreed to help make sure use of Hurricane Hole continues to go smoothly.
And that is not the only post Boulon will be responsible for in the future. He already sits on St. John Historical Society’s board of directors and he recently accepted an offer to join Friends of V.I. National Park’s board of directors as well.
Retirement will also give Boulon a chance to visit his grandchildren — he has one in California and two more on the way — and plan more trips on his beloved motorcycle. Boulon also has plenty of house projects on tap at Wind Swept, his Trunk Bay home, and plans to compile his family’s history.
“I want to write a book about growing up on St. John and share some of my memories and pictures from our family,” said Boulon. “I’m hoping to have time to do all the things that I didn’t have time for when I was working full time.”
In Boulon’s absence, VINP Resource Manager Thomas Kelley has been appointed Acting VINP Chief of Resource Management, at least for now, explained VINP Acting Superintendent Mike Anderson.
“Thomas is in the post now and we’ll rotate that responsibility at a future date to other staff members,” said Anderson.