Youth Volunteers Help SEA Plant Native Trees

Jennifer Valiulis and her crew prepare to plant trees at the Southgate Coastal Reserve.
Jennifer Valiulis and her crew prepare to plant trees at the Southgate Coastal Reserve.

Ten community volunteers closed out the old year on Dec. 29 by planting about 30 native trees.

“The St. Croix Environmental Association has been planting native trees at the Southgate Coastal reserve over the last few months as part of a project to aid in the recovery of the natural environment after the hurricanes of 2017,” said acting Executive Director Jennifer Valiulis.

The group was joined by participants in the Fueling Youth Reading is Leaders in Training program (FYR is LIT) to reach its tree planting goal.

The program consists of teen leaders from the Caribbean Centers for Boys and Girls of the Virgin Islands and college students who returned home for the holidays and worked with second grade students from Claude O. Markoe Elementary School/CCBGVI to enhance literacy skills and take up environmental responsibility.

Valiulis said educators from SEA visited the students earlier in the week and taught them the value of trees through environmental activities and art projects.

A broad range of volunteers – preschool through teenagers from the CCBGVI marked the start of the new year on Jan. 3 by completing the native tree-planting goal.

“The group learned all about the interesting trees we were planting,” said Valiulis. “We planted a variety of species including calabash, lignum vitae, orange manjack, Jamaica caper, pitch apple, soapberry, turpentine and several others.”

The volunteers really liked applying the goat manure and mulch to each tree, Valiulis said, and they were excited to see all the gongolos and a couple of worms in the soil.

Young volunteer Danielle Remie plants her tree.
Young volunteer Danielle Remie plants her tree.

“The students were so excited and so willing to get their hands in the soil and make sure the trees were planted correctly,” Valiulis. “I was really impressed by how much they knew about the importance of trees, like how trees prevent erosion and give us clean air. … Our goal was to plant 100 native trees at the Southgate Coastal Reserve and we are just shy of reaching that goal.”

The volunteers received first-hand information about the value of tree planting, including: Trees provide shade along the trail and valuable habitat for wildlife in the area, keep soil in place so it does not wash down into the ocean during flooding rains, and reduce the carbon in the atmosphere that creates climate change.

“Planting trees is one of the easiest and most rewarding actions we can do to help the environment,” added Valiulis.

The Community foundation of the Virgin Islands provided support for this project with funding from Cruzan’s Island Spirit Fund.

SEA’s January Tree Giveaway for Hurricane Recovery is scheduled for 10 a.m. to noon Jan 19 at Art Farm, Route 62 at Junction 85, Estate Longford, at the old cattle pens on the South Shore Road.

In February, SEA will have a trail walk and bird watching activity on from 8 to 9:30 a.m. Feb 9, at the Southgate Coastal Reserve.

The Southgate Coastal Reserve was created in 1999 and expanded in 2000 through donations. It totals 100 acres a little over three miles east of Christiansted. It encompasses a coastal salt pond, mangrove forest, beach forest and upland grassland.

More information is available by calling SEA at 340-773-1989, sending email to, or on the organization’s website.