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New DVD Tells the Story of V.I. National Park

Feb. 12, 2007 — Step back in time with the DVD "The Establishment of Virgin Islands National Park," created in conjunction with the park's 50th anniversary celebration in December 2006.
It's for sale by the Friends of the Park group. "It's an interesting story, given the individuals involved," said Friends President Joe Kessler. The Friends didn't have many copies available for sale at the dedication, he said, but they've since addressed the issue and have begun promoting the video.
The DVD takes viewers on a journey though the events leading up to the park's creation in 1956, with contributions from several St. John residents. The video includes historical still photos and home videos, narration and video by Steve Simonsen, a script by Bruce Schoonover and Carolyn Korman and editing by Bill Stelzer.
It also includes commentary on the benefits of the park to St. John and the territory by St. John residents Guy Benjamin, Rafe Boulon, Andromeada Keating, Eleanor Gibney and Elroy Sprauve, as well as St. Thomas historian David Knight and former park Superintendent Art Frederick.
According to the DVD, the park has its roots in the establishment of a Civilian Conservation Corps camp at Calabash Boom that opened in 1938. Harold Hubler, who later became the park's first superintendent, was in charge of that camp. After World War II interrupted early hopes of a St. John park, he later urged the park's development.
Meanwhile, philanthropist Laurance S. Rockefeller had set out with his wife, Mary, on a boating adventure to find their spot in the sun. They dropped anchor at Trunk Bay and soon discovered nearby Caneel Bay. Rockefeller bought Caneel Bay, opening his resort on the same day the park opened in 1956.
Around the same time the Rockefellers were exploring St. John, Frank Stick was forging plans to develop Lameshur Bay. Rockefeller and Stick eventually joined forces with National Park Service Director Conrad Wirth and the park came to fruition.
The late Julius E. Sprauve, then a senator and the man whose name graces the Cruz Bay public school, was an early supporter. He was one of the 14 original people who sold their land for the park.
The Legislature approved a bill proposed by Sprauve to allow the park. Six Republicans in the U.S. Congress dragged their feet, but eventually the park gained approval. The park opened with a party in Cruz Bay that drew 920 guests, at the time the largest crowd in Cruz Bay history.
Schoonover did the research for the DVD, which he said began when he looked for answers to questions asked by visitors to the park's Annaberg plantation. He and his wife, Sharon, volunteer as docents at Annaberg.
After Schoonover learned about Stick's role in the formation of the park, he located Stick's son, David, in North Carolina, using the Internet. The younger Stick, who has written many books about the Carolina coast, told Schoonover that he had given all of his father's papers to the Outer Banks Historical Society.
"So we spend five days scanning in 500 pages of letters," Schoonover said.
His trek to uncover the park's history took him to the park's archives in Harper's Ferry, W.Va., and to the Rockefeller archives in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.
Through the Rockefeller archives, Schoonover located footage from the Dec. 1, 1956, dedication ceremony. David Stick also had 1953 footage taken at Lameshur, which is included in the film.
Stelzer uncovered other early St. John footage as the video came together, Schoonover said.
The DVD costs $20 and is available at the Friends' website. Call 779-4940.
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