While a Student Conservation Association crew was on island maintaining V.I. National Park trails last month (see related story), the volunteers also cleared L’Esperance, making it ready to be added as an official VINP trail.
The historically-rich area starts just off Centerline Road and winds down 2.6 miles to eventually meet up with the maintained Reef Bay Sugar Factory trail. The old road meanders past ruins at L’Esperance, one of the earliest settlements on St. John dating to the original Danish colonization in the 1720s.
The first Moravian Church meetings on St. John took place in the L’Esperance area in the 1740s, as sugar plantation owner Nickolas Tonis was a friend of the religious sect, explained island historian Chuck Pishko.
The trail, which means “the hope” in French, is the first trail to be added to the official VINP map in years. It is part of the park’s dedication to re-opening various trails across the island, explained VINP Chief of Resource Manage-ment Rafe Boulon.
“We’re looking at restoring some of the old trails and reopening some that were open before which we had to close because we didn’t have the financing to up-keep them,” said Boulon. “This is the first in that effort.”
The now-maintained trail consists of an easy grade with lush trees which provide plenty of shade, even during a recent late-afternoon hike. Clouds of butterflies fluttered overhead and foliage invaded the crumbling ruins, giving hikers the impression of stepping back in time.
Just before returning to Centerline Road a modern Route 10 sign on the side of the trail ensures walkers stay on the right path. For more information about L’Esperance, stop by the VINP Visitors Center in Cruz Bay, or call the park at 776-6201.