Date: October 11, 2017
Contact: Rob Parrish, 917-509-4426
San Juan, P.R. – The National Park Service continues its effort to stabilize, recover, and safely re-open the six national parks in the Caribbean, which sustained unprecedented damage from Hurricanes Irma and Maria and remain closed. Due to varying impacts and types of damage, some park units will open sooner than others. In addition, some parks will have a segmented or phased opening.
The NPS incident management team (IMT) currently deployed in the Caribbean consists of 102 NPS and U.S. Public Health Service personnel. It remains based in Puerto Rico's Convention Center within the FEMA Emergency Operations Center. There is an IMT branch director assigned to each park with supporting positions on site within the park unit. An NPS facility assessment team is in the Caribbean assessing all park structures and infrastructure.
San Juan National Historic Site, Buck Island Reef National Monument, and Christiansted National Historic Site sustained minimal damage. These areas are considered stable and the NPS is working towards the following recovery core objectives to reopen these parks:
- Safe public and employee access;
- Permanent and sustainable electrical power;
- Safety and aesthetic site repairs.
Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument, Virgin Islands National Park, and Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve sustained significant and extensive damage. The NPS is working to stabilize these parks in order to begin the recovery process. On October 22, a Caribbean Hurricane Emergency Rehabilitation Team (CHERT) will arrive in the islands to develop the following for these parks:
- Core objectives to transition parks from the stabilization phase to the recovery stage;
- A strategic plan for the recovery stage to reopen each specific park unit;
- A financial plan to mirror each of the stabilization and recovery phases.
Stabilization objectives for these parks includes:
- Safe housing for park employees;
- Safe access for employees and visitors;
- Safe work environment for employees;
- Debris removal;
- Submerged resources assessments.
“We express our sincerest heartbreak for the closure of these parks,” said Randy Lavasseur, superintendent of the National Parks of the Caribbean. “We will update the public on our timelines and progress as soon as possible.”