Virgin Islands National Park Announces Addition of 215 Acres of Land — Estates Beverhoudtsberg and Bellevue

V.I. National Park Superintendent Mark Hardgrove announced last week that as of July 1, the park’s boundaries were officially adjusted to include an additional 215 acres, 25 years after it was acquired.

The land — located in the central part of the island includes acres in both Estate Beverhoudtsberg and Estate Bellevue — was gifted to VINP by The Nature Conservancy in February 1986.

“On February 21, 1986, The Nature Conservancy presented a Deed of Gift to the United States of America for 21 parcels of land that comprise the expressed ‘condition and limitation that the premises herein conveyed shall forever be held and administered as a National Park by the Secretary of the US Department of the Interior,’” according to information from the VINP.

The Deed of Gift, which was accepted by the National Park Services’ Regional Director of the Southeast Region at the time, includes approximately 162.5 acres in Estate Beverhoudtsberg and 52.5 acres in Estate Bellevue, adjacent to the VINP’s boundary.

The land borders Gift Hill School and Gifft Hill Road and includes much of the upper watershed of the Fish Bay drainage system, which ultimately drains into VINP waters.

While it has been known for years that this land was part of VINP, it was never incorporated into the park’s actual boundary on the ground or reflected in VINP maps.

“It was thought the boundary would automatically be adjusted to incorporate the land when the revision of the Park’s General Management Plan, which included public review and input, is completed,” according to information from VINP. “However, the publication of the boundary adjustment in the Federal Register (Vol. 76, No. 127, 7/1/11) makes it final.”

The Beverhoudtsberg Estate was one of the largest and richest estates on St. John during the early 1800s and many historic features of this once prosperous estate remain. During the mid 1800s the St. John District doctor’s office was located on this estate.

Even before Dr. Hornbeck called the area home, the Beverhoudtsbergs were some of the original Dutch settlers on St. John and Johan Beverhoudtsberg was the head of the military command on the island, explained St. John historian Chuck Pishko.

“Johan Beverhoudtsberg was one of the men who defended Caneel Bay during the 1733 slave revolt,” said Pishko. “He had a sugar plantation up there. The estates on the ridge up there — Susanaberg, Beverhoudtsberg and all the way to Catherineberg — were prime land and the Dutch grabbed it all up.”

When sugar plantations went downhill, Beverhoudtsberg used the land to graze cattle and cultivate provisions, Pishko added.
The land is culturally significant with a series of ruins on the site, including the home of Dr. Hornbeck, who was appointed as the St. John District Physician, Pishko explained.

“It’s definitely a culturally significant area,” he said. “Having the doctor’s house alone makes the area important.”

Ruth Low’s St. John Backtime includes an article on the estate and a diagram of Hornbeck’s house. Soon Beverhoudtsberg, and the rest of the 215 acres, will appear on official VINP maps.

While VINP officials have a survey map complete, park officials are hoping to acquire funding to survey the boundaries on the ground, explained VINP Superintendent Mark Hardgrove.

“We have a survey on maps and we’re going to need to go and get a ground survey,” said Hardgrove. “That might take five years until we get the funds. We’ve owned the place for a while, we just never did the boundaries.”

In the meantime, the VINP will continue to protect and preserve the land as it has been doing for the past 25 years, since it was accepted in 1986, Hardgrove added.