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Long Road To Recovery For Some National Parks In The Caribbean


Park Service facilities at Maho Bay in Virgin Islands National Park took a beating from Hurricanes Irma and Maria/NPS

With some areas of the National Park System in the Caribbean having sustained "total loss" from Hurricanes Irma and Maria last month, it's expected to be many months before things are back to normal.

"The National Park Service Caribbean Parks, like most public services, private entities, and communities in the Caribbean, have sustained unprecedented damage from both Hurricanes Irma and Maria," the agency said Wednesday in a release. "Some Caribbean park units fared better than others based on location and type of infrastructure, but all units are closed at this time for various reasons listed below. We are diligently working to stabilize, recover, and ultimately open for public enjoyment again.

Flooding undercut roads and park facilities/NPS

"Due to the differences in damage, some park units will open sooner than others. Additionally, some parks will have a segmented or phased opening for that same reason."

On October 22, a Caribbean Hurricane Emergency Rehabilitation Team will arrive in the islands to develop the following:

1. Core objectives to transition parks from the stabilization phase to the recovery stage

2. A strategic plan for the recovery stage to reopen each specific park unit

3. A financial plan to mirror each of the stabilization and recovery phases

"The San Juan National Historic Site, Buck Island Reef National Monument, and Christiansted National Historic Site sustained minimal damage," the Park Service reported. "These areas are considered stable and the NPS is working towards the following recovery core objectives to reopen: 1. Safe public and employee access; 2. Permanent, and sustainable electrical power at the historic sites; 3. Cosmetic and safety repairs."

Elsewhere in the Caribbean, "the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument, the Virgin Islands National Park, and the Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve sustained significant damage; and in some areas, total loss," the Park Service said. "These areas are considered unstable and the NPS is working towards stabilization, which will require the strategic planning of the CHERT to help identify the core objectives as listed above. The park’s stabilization objectives for these sites are: 1. Safe housing for park employees; 2. Safe access for employees and visitors; 3. Safe work environment for employees; 4. Debris removal; 5. Submerged waters and shipwreck assessments."

Hurricane Hole normally is viewed as a relatively safe haven from storms at Virgin Islands National Park, but sailboats were tossed about there by Hurricane Irma/NPS

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