When the parking lot at Maho Bay is complete, the entrance, above, will be moved farther away from the corner. Once the lot is open there will be no parking allowed on the beachside of the road.
As parking becomes more scarce with hundreds of tourists descending on St. John, visiting and local beach-goers alike should be careful about where they park and how they drive their vehicles this high season.
With repairs to North Shore Road wrapping up, V.I. National Park officials are ramping up efforts to keep the roadway safe and plan to enforce all parking and speed restrictions.
The park is renewing its effort to reach a “zero accident” goal in 2011, according to a press release issued by VINP officials on Wednesday, February 23.
“Public safety is a critical part of making VINP the number one park destination for tourism in the Caribbean,” according to the park statement. “The near completion of the North Shore Road paving contract has given VINP an opportunity to implement safety plans for installation of traffic calming devices such as new crosswalks, new parking areas, new signage, and in general, to slow traffic down.”
Previous years have seen between eight and 12 accidents on North Shore Road and the newly renovated roadway has made the possibility for high speeds greater, explained VINP Superintendent Mark Hardgrove.
“This initiative really came up because of the many near misses we’ve had on the road and the ability, with the improved state of the road, to get high speeds,” said Hardgrove. “We looked at our statistics and we’ve done really well, so we wanted to challenge the community to see if we could achieve zero accidents this year.”
“We’ve done so much to make the road better, we are trying to get folks to respect the natural beauty and understand they are in a National Park,” Hardgrove said. “It’s not about the transportation as much as the experience. At any moment, around any turn you can expect to meet a donkey, a deer, a biker, a walker or
A day of enjoying the pristine natural beauty of VINP should not be followed by a night at the hospital or worse, Hardgrove added.
“We don’t want anyone to have to suffer any loses,” he said. “We would hate to have folks go out and have a great day in the park and then not come home. Life is so precious, we can all just be more careful.”
A new parking area at Jumbie Beach trailhead has expanded vehicle capacity at the popular snorkel area. At Maho Bay, VINP officials are working to complete a parking area to accommodate about 25 to 30 vehicles and will then halt parking on the beach side of the road, explained Rafe Boulon, VINP’s chief of resource management.
“We’re probably going to continue to allow people to park on the land side of the road, but stop people from parking on the beach side of the road,” said Boulon. “The parking on the beach side has clearly impacted the beach there. It’s really important to protect the root system of the sea grapes there in order to hold the sand together and retrap sand after a large storm.”
“People parking on the beach there over time have created big gaps which have left nothing to hold the sand in place,” Boulon said.
The new parking lot will be located on the site of the old trailer at the Maho Bay corner towards Annaberg. The entrance to the parking lot will be moved farther away from the corner to increase visibility.
Once the lot is complete, VINP officials plan to block parking along the beach at Maho Bay and will plant sea grape trees in an effort to halt erosion, explained Boulon.
“We plan on blocking that area off with management boulders and replanting sea grape trees which should cut down on the erosion,” he said.
The concrete swale at Maho Bay will also be blocked off to send a clear message that vehicles should not be parking on the sand, Boulon added.
“We’re going to be putting some sort of flexible stoppers on the concrete swale,” said the chief of resource management. “They will be attached to the edge of the road and will be flexible so if there is a water event, things can wash through. But they will clearly indicate that you shouldn’t be driving onto the beach.”
On the other end of the beach, long-planned renovations to the pavilion are expected to get underway soon, according to Boulon.
“Pavilion renovations have been in the works for a long time,” he said. “We’ll be removing the flat section of the building and we’ll fix up the roof so people can use the building for get togethers. We’ll also be putting in one little picnic area, like at Hawksnest, but much smaller in scale with the smaller space at Maho.”
“And we’re putting in a bathroom facility,” Boulon said. “Then we’ll realign the parking on that end. We’ll likely make the parking perpendicular instead of parallel to the pavement, but some parallel spaces might remain.”
After all the work is complete, the same amount of vehicles should still be able to park in the Maho Bay area, if not more, Boulon added.
Other new sights on North Shore Road include six “traffic calming devices” as well as “Speed Bump Ahead” signs.
“In the next few weeks crosswalks will be installed at Lind Point trailhead, Jumbie Beach trailhead, and Cinnamon Bay to further enhance pedestrian safety,” according to the VINP release.
The statement also cautioned drivers not to park on the pavement anywhere on North Shore Road.
“As a reminder, parking anywhere along the North Shore Road with any one of four tires on the pavement is considered obstructing the flow of traffic and is prohibited for safety reasons,” according to the VINP statement. “Although not required or always feasible, park rangers will attempt to locate drivers to move their vehicles instead of issuing a $50 citation.”
“Rangers encourage visitors to arrive at their favorite beach early in the day and to use public transportation whenever possible,” according to the VINP release. “If parking is not available seek out a different beach by hiking park trails.”
Hiking guides are available at the VINP Visitor Center in Cruz Bay.