Land Added to U.S. Virgin Isl. Preserve

The property on the north coast of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, is adjacent to the Salt River National Historic Site and Ecological Preserve. The park is the site of Columbus’ landing during his second voyage in 1493 and contains several sites of anthopological interest as well as one of the last remaining stands of virgin hardwood forest in the area. TPL received the land as a donation from a private owner and transferred it to the National Park Service.

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, 1/19/03?- The Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced today that it has accepted the donation of a site on the north coast of the island of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, the only location in the United States where Christopher Columbus landed during any of his voyages to the New World.

The property is adjacent to the Salt River National Historic Site and Ecological Preserve, a unit of the National Park Service. The park was the site of Columbus’ landing, which took place during his second voyage in 1493. The event was recorded in Columbus’s log book, which makes it the first documented hostile encounter between Europeans and the pre-Columbian population of the Americas.

Salt River NHS is a relatively new unit of the National Park Service. NPS is expanding the boundaries of the park, and TPL is working on a number of projects to acquire inholdings and adjacent properties at Salt River for conveyance to the National Park Service.

Park superintendent Joel Tutein describes the Columbus visit as a benchmark in the 2000-year human history in the area. “This is where east meets west, and everything changes after that,” Tutein said. “It changed the Americas forever.”

While the history of the park is interesting, he points out that it is an ecological preserve, and that the donation of this site will help protect its natural beauty.

“This donation helps preserve the watershed of the Salt River basin, which protects the waters that flow from the island to the deep water canyon, a large pristine coral reef offshore,” Superintendent Tutein said. “The property contains some very large hardwood trees, part of the virgin forest that still exists in this area.”

“The U.S. Virgin Islands are under tremendous development pressure,” said Greg Chelius, state director of TPL’s Florida Office. “We are very pleased to be working with the National Park Service to preserve Salt River’s unique natural, historic and cultural resources.”

The area encompasses all major cultural periods in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Besides the Columbus association, the park contains village middens, burial grounds, and the only ceremonial prehistoric ball court ever discovered in the lesser Antilles. The area was a focal point of various European attempts to colonize the area during the post-Columbian period by the Spaniards, French, Dutch, English, and Danish. The site is marked by Fort Sale, a remaining earthworks fortification from the Dutch period of occupation.

Local historian Dr. George Tyson says the plan for the park is extraordinarily important because it affords an opportunity to interpret St. Croix’s prehistory.

“We don’t have any other site that is so readily available and with such great associations,” Tyson says. “The park that is evolving at this point is going to do much to put St. Croix on the map as a heritage tourism destination. That’s very important here. While we have a lot of history, we don’t have another site like this that can command international attention.”

The property was donated to TPL from the landowner on December 20, 2002 and expects to convey the parcel to the National Park Service within the next 30 days.

The Trust for Public Land, established in 1972, specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law, to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. Across the nation, TPL has helped protect more than 1.5 million acres, valued at $3 billion.

Other Contacts:

Greg Chelius, Florida State Director, the Trust for Public Land
Tallahassee, Florida
(850) 222-7911, ext. 14

John Garrison, project manager, the Trust for Public Land
St. Petersburg, Florida
(727) 895-5090

Joel Tutein, Superintendent, Salt River National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve,
Christiansted, St. Croix, US Virgin Islands
(340) 773-1460, ext. 22

Dr. George Tyson
Owner and Curator, The Whim Plantation Museum
St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
(340) 772-0664