View from Caneel Hill Getting Better With Reconstruction of View Platform

The platform will offer hikers a panoramic view from Tortola to St. Croix.

The view from the Caneel Hill Trail is about to get a lot better, thanks to St. John resident Frank Cummings. Almost a year ago, Cummings decided to take it upon himself to construct a new view platform on Caneel Hill.

Two months after Cummings received National Park Service approval for the project, the platform is finally nearing completion.

“We’d gone up there a couple times before Hugo, when it blew over,” said Cummings. “It’s a really cool place to hike up to with a bottle of wine and chill out and watch the sunset. The old tower was really cool, but it just looked cruddy.”

Time To Give Something Back
After visiting the run-down tower time and time again, Cummings, who has been a concessionaire for the V.I. National Park with his Snuba business for 17 years, decided it was time to return the favor, he said.

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“I decided it was time to give something back,” said Cummings. “I said if the park came up with the money, which they did, I would get an engineer to draw it up and orchestrate the labor.”

Once the project took off, so did the offers for help, according to Cummings.

“We’ve had a lot of people help us,” he said. “We had a couple of young teachers from the Baptist school haul a generator up there, and a group of Boy Scouts from Illinois helped us get out half the lumber. A third group from the Friends of the Park helped us coordinate and get the rest of the wood up there.”

Remote Location Adds Difficulty
Generous friends also helped Cummings with the project, which, despite being quite small, was difficult to coordinate because of the tower’s remote location.

“My friend Eric Bowman has been helping me carry the concrete up there,” said Cummings. “Carrying 80-pound bags up that hill is brutal. Because it’s so remote, that makes everything more difficult.”

Cummings was impressed by the efforts of one female friend, he said.

“We went up there together, and she carried an 80-pound bag of concrete,” said Cummings. “That’s only about a third of my weight, but it was at least half her weight.”

Carpentry by Cummings
Others who helped Cummings achieve the completion of the tower were resident Steve Black, who helped finance the project, and the Bertolino family and Roger Harland, who gave workers access to the site via their respective properties, according to Cummings.

Cummings himself has done all the carpentry on the project.

“I dug the holes pretty much by hand for the footings,” he said. “My father was a contractor, and I did it long enough to know that I wanted to do something else.”

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The six foot platform is almost complete.

Now, nearly two months after beginning the project, the view tower is almost complete, according to Cummings.

“I can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said on Monday, July 31. “We are about a week away from being finished.”

Once the new tower is completed, Cummings will disassemble the old tower at the request of the park.

“We’ll save that for the very last, so we can clean the whole site up at one time,” he said.

Standing on the approximately six-foot-high tower offers a much different view than one sees standing atop the 719-foot Caneel Hill, according to Cummings.

“If you are standing at ground level, you can only see certain parts of the view, maybe 160 degrees,” he said. “If you just get up six feet higher, you have about 320 degree views of the water. You can see the north shore, and you can see St. Croix — it’s amazing.”

Despite Cummings’ dedication to seeing the tower through to completion, he is not doing it for the recognition, he said.

“It seems like a lot of people just take, take, take, and I felt like I wanted to do something to give back,” said Cummings. “I’m not looking for a big recognition. I just want to do it, scratch my initials in the concrete and walk away from it.”