April 12, 2005 Members of the Red Hook Community Alliance and the Northside Civic Organization took their concerns about Vessup Beach to the streets once again Tuesday in a protest in front of the V.I. Legislature and Government House.
While the protest on the Legislature grounds yielded a response from Senate President Lorraine L. Berry, the group was unsuccessful in their attempts to have a word with the governor.
The group began their protest against the government's inaction on the pending sale of Vessup Beach about 4 p.m. outside of Fort Christian cheered on by the honks of passing motorists as they waved signs and placards.
One placard, made by resident Ronald Martin, depicted Vessup Beach complete with shells that he picked up from the beach. The sign read, "Save Vessup or our Children's Future will be a mess."
Another sign read, "Don't be a lame duck. Do something. Save Vessup."
The group took their protest to the grounds of the Legislature where Sens. Berry, Louis Hill and Craig Barshinger greeted them.
"This seems to be the way to get action in our Virgin Islands," Berry told the group. Berry said the Legislature has done its part, and now it was up to Gov. Charles Turnbull to enforce the laws. She wished them the best in their endeavors.
Jason Budsan, member of the Northside Civic Organization, asked Berry whether the governor had sent down any nominees for the board created under the recently adopted Territorial Park Trust legislation, which would be able to form policy for the use of beaches such as Vessup. Budsan said the legislation's sponsor, Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, had said recently that he sent a list of eight names to the governor for the Territorial Park Board.
Berry said to her knowledge the governor has yet to send down any nominees.
"You have the commitment of the Senate," Berry said, once the governor does his part and sends down the names.
The group, accompanied by Hill, then marched up to Government House where they chanted loudly, "Governor, save Vessup Beach."
After about 15 minutes of loud chanting and no sign of the governor, Red Hook Community Alliance President Andrea King told the security guard at Government House that she had a prepared statement she would like to read to Turnbull.
The guard placed a call and conveyed the message to Turnbull, but the governor instructed the guard to tell King that he was at a "very important meeting."
Unperturbed, the group erupted in their chants and yelled, "Governor, talk to the people." However, Turnbull did not acknowledge the group as they protested in the blistering sun.
Their cries fell on the ears of passing motorists, members of the media and tourists who stopped to watch.
King then read her prepared statement before the media and the group.
"We're here to tell you today that Vessup Beach is important to us," King said. "It's been nine months since the law has passed, and you have done nothing."
King urged the absent governor to take action and preserve Vessup Beach for future generations. She then asked the security guard to give a written copy of her statement to the governor.
"Obviously, this is not a priority for the governor," Hill said after the protest was over. "Clearly, his action today demonstrates how he feels about the issue."
King said Turnbull never responded to the many letters sent by the group inquiring about the acquisition of Vessup Beach. She said the group would continue with its fight for the preservation of one of the few remaining public beaches on the East End of the island.
Ann Durante-Arnold, president of the Northside Civic Organization, said it wasn't the first time that Turnbull failed to give a response to the two groups. She said the governor does not take time to hear from concerns from organizations like hers despite calls, letters and requests for him to appear at meetings.
"We're here supporting [the Red Hook Community Alliance] because it could be Hull Bay next," Arnold said. "As Northside residents, we're concerned about our beaches. Eventually, we're going to need to have something for our people."
Since February 2004, the alliance has been fighting against the proposed sale of the land surrounding Vessup Beach to a mainland private developer. They had some success when legislation sponsored by Hill for the acquisition of the beach was passed by the 25th Legislature in July, overriding a veto from Turnbull. See Horns Herald Vote to Override Vessup Bay Veto.
However, Turnbull has not taken any action to acquire Vessup and Muller bays as the legislation mandates, much to the chagrin of the alliance. Last month, James O'Bryan, St. Thomas-Water Island administrator and spokesman for Turnbull, told the Source that the $3 million set aside in the legislation for the acquisition of the beach would not be available until September and would more than likely be insufficient.
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