Residents Oppose Backcountry Experience Zone at GMP Meetings

Residents at both V.I. National Park (VINP) General Management Plan (GMP) meetings last week were strongly opposed to allowing camping in a “backcountry” zone in the VINP.

“One thing is bothering me here,” said St. Johnian Edmund Roberts, a retired NPS ranger who spent a number of years in Alaska’s Denali National Park. “There are only about 14,000 acres on St. John. For a backcountry you don’t want people coming and stomping by you all the time.”

Developed Backcountry
“Most of the area that you are showing as the backcountry is already developed,” Roberts continued. “You won’t have a backcountry experience. I worked in parks that have 13 million acres—they have backcountry experiences.”

“I have a big problem with this backcountry idea also,” said resident Liberty Bryer. “We don’t have the acreage for that—it’s inappropriate. If we open these areas, we’ll open a can of worms and ruin some of the remaining unspoiled natural resources that we have.”

Fire Fears
“My real fear is fire,” said local architect Rob Crane. “There is no way to stop it, and no roads for fire equipment. I think you should very seriously reconsider overnight camping in the park.”

Other residents testified they felt the backcountry zone would be a draw for tourists instead of locals.

“It seems like the backcountry experience is catering more to the visitors,” said Kristen Maize, program coordinator for Friends of the VINP. “It doesn’t seem to follow through with what the park has done so far—it seems like a detour.”

“Seeing the size of the backcountry camping zone is kind of frightening,” Maize added.

Lack of Parking
Residents also weighed in on the VINP’s responsibility to provide parking.

“The park has to step up the plate and provide legitimate parking,” said Crane. “I have no problem taking a taxi to the beach but there is no where to park my car in town.”

Some residents were simply disappointed by the lack of concrete information provided by the VINP officials.

“I’m really disappointed,” said Pam Gaffin. “It has been two years since the last meetings where we went through all of these issues. I thought we’d have answers now.”

“I can’t believe that you want us to just pick blobs on a map,” she continued. “No matter what we pick, we don’t know what it really means. I expected some answers, but you are asking us to make choices based on pretty maps.”

“I can already see that the Coral Bay Community Council (CBCC) will submit a lot of the same comments because we haven’t seen any feedback from our last comments,” said CBCC President Sharon Coldren.

Other residents acknowledged the importance of the VINP.

Park Called Only Hope
“Given the current climate on St. John, we look more and more to the park for preservation and protection,” said long-time Love City resident David Knight. “The park is our only hope. I would like to see less development and more preservation—and I would like to see that preservation be steadfast.”

However residents feel about the GMP alternatives, the public is an integral part of the VINP, according to Supt. Art Frederick. “The over-riding thing that we realized is that you care about this resource,” he said. “You want us to do the right things and we want you with us until it’s finalized.”

Comments Due June 5
The public can submit comments by mail or email about the GMP until June 5. The comments will be used to determine which alternative will eventually be the used for the GMP document. The next round of meetings will be late this year or early next year, when VINP officials will present the written document to the public.

For more information or to see the GMP alternative maps, visit the VINP’s Web site at, and click on management documents.

A newsletter, detailing the plans, will be available after Tuesday, May 9, at the VINP’s visitor center and at Connec-tions.