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HomeNewsArchivesWisconsin Soldiers Clearing Out Abandoned St. Croix Hotel

Wisconsin Soldiers Clearing Out Abandoned St. Croix Hotel

Cadet Keegan Myers,  Lt. Robert Turpin and First Sgt. Andrew Aasen of the Wisconsin National Guard with a plaque of appreciation given them by the V.I. National Guard Wednesday.In a brief outdoor ceremony Wednesday morning, the V.I. National Guard formally thanked some 80 Wisconsin National Guard men and women for work they are doing demolishing an abandoned hotel at Salt River Bay on St. Croix’s north shore.
Amidst hills of concrete rubble and piles of plastic pipes and wires, with the sun beating down through steamy air, Col. Elton Lewis of the V.I. National Guard presented the men and women of the 229th Horizontal Engineer Company a plaque expressing appreciation for their hard work on a project to improve St. Croix.
About 80 Wisconsin soldiers are spending their summer training weeks working on St. Croix, spread over two rotations. The first rotation was June 4-18, while the second rotation is June 18-July 2. The National Guard’s role is part of the Innovative Readiness Training program, which provides military personnel support and services to eligible organizations and agencies outside of the Department of Defense to address worthy community and civic needs.
The Guard has about $2 million for the work this year. The scope of work includes removal and redevelopment of construction materials, shoreline stabilization along the western end of the peninsula, and construction of a park access road 6,700 feet from Bennie Benjamin Road into the park.
The whole project is a win-win for the territory and the Wisconsin National Guard soldiers: St. Croix benefits, of course, by getting rid of a hulking eyesore. And the work will help prepare the way for the long-planned Salt River Bay Marine Research and Education Center campus. The research campus will be a collaborative effort of several agencies and universities, including the National Park Service.
For its part, the Wisconsin Guard benefits by getting heavy equipment training and large project experience. "This is actually a great opportunity to enhance our skills," said First Sgt. Andrew Aasen. They could do some training back home, but having a large-scale real project to complete gives the soldiers much more time using heavy equipment and using it under realistic circumstances, Aasen said.
When not working, the visiting soldiers have been enjoying a few weeks in America’s Caribbean, too. "I became scuba certified," Aasen said. "I got four dives in through the Sweetbottom Dive Shop. It’s very beautiful here."
Others took a more casual, touristic approach.
"We went to the rum factory, then shopping and sightseeing on the boardwalk in Christiansted," said Staff Sgt. Diana Metz. "I bought some souvenirs, and we ate at Angry Nate’s on the boardwalk where Troy, our waiter, was hilarious."
Just being in the Caribbean makes the trip exciting, too.
"We like to jump into the ocean after work every day," Metz said. "That’s our favorite part of the day. There’s no ocean in Wisconsin, you know, so we dive in whenever we can."
The Salt River area restoration is a long-term initiative to be spread over many phases. In the first phase, the U.S. National Park Service laid out initial earthen access roads. The V.I. and Wisconsin National Guards are now demolishing the old hotel, removing debris and building up the roadbed. Later, a permanent park access road will be built.
The Wisconsin team finishes up its labors this week, but the work will go on. From July 7 through September, Florida National Guard troops from the 868th and 869th engineer companies will be coming to take their place, according to a V.I. National Guard statement.

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