The coconut palms lining North Shore Road as you pass by Big Maho Bay have always been my favorite. And the closeness of the road to the beach and sea always tempts me to slow down to take in the view. I recently finished reading a local history book, The Night of the Silent Drums, by John L. Andersen, detailing the history of St. John and the slave rebellion that occurred here in the 1700’s. In it I learned that the plantation at Big Maho Bay planted and harvested the coconut palms that you see there today! My hope is the VI National Park will work on sharing the history of that area now that it is part of the park. You can still literally walk through much of St. John’s history since development has been limited. It is not necessary to visit only the ruins to see the history of St. John. It can be seen everywhere once you learn about the island’s past. If you want to walk through the coconut palms, I recommend bring a hard had since the coconuts do not give warnings before falling from the trees!
The Night of the Silent Drums is out of print, so if you want to read it you have to find an old copy. Thankfully, locals and visitors have traded in old copies to the Coffeeshop / Used Bookstore called Papaya Cafe at the Marketplace. I don’t know if they ship or not, but the book run about $40 or so, many hardback editions. You may also find a copy online. A great island read if you are visiting St. John!
Need a Beach Break? Let’s visit Oppenheimer Beach!
I know many people on the East Coast are dealing with the aftermath of strong storms the last day or two, so I thought I would offer a view of a much calmer and warmer place just waiting for your return!
One of my favorite beaches to visit when I stayed at Maho Bay Camp and also while I have lived here is Oppenheimer Beach. The sand here has eroded to almost nothing but the beach itself is still beautiful and lined with coconut palm trees. The water is the most incredible turquoise blue, especially in the summer when the angle of the sun shifts and the beach is not put into the shade as quickly as it is in the winter months.
My favorite memory of this beach was back in July of 2000 when Inner Visions, a local reggae band, was playing next to the house on Oppenheimer Beach, and food and drinks were for sale as a fundraising for a local organization. After a 10 minute downpour of liquid sunshine, as we call a sunny rain shower, we headed down to the water with our drinks and listened to reggae while dancing in the bay! It was my quintessential Caribbean beach day!
Often referred to as Gibney beach, Oppenheimer Beach is the same stretch of sand. Gibney is about 3/4th of the beach that is closer to Hawksnest Beach, while Oppeheimer is the the small beach on the opposite side with a small building and now a tire swing! Robert Oppenheimer, “the father of the Atomic Bomb” used to own this small piece of land, which was later inherited by his daughter. When his daughter died she donated it to “The Children of St. John”.
In light of the fact that the Government Shutdown has closed all public access to the beaches, bays and hiking trails of the National Park here on St. John, as well as stopped any personal or charter boats from mooring in the bays, I am inclined to want the new owners of the Maho land to make any donation to the VI Government or to St. John in some way. Locally we enforce public access to all beaches up to the high tide or tree line. When you consider the beaches and bays incorporated into the VI National Park, it is almost all of the beautiful North Shore beaches that visitors come her for and locals go to on their days off. The idea of arresting someone for going for a swim in the ocean is absurd and requires more manpower than is ever put forth when the government is not shutdown.
Some specifics of my above paragraph could probably be nitpicked for the more technically accurate information, but I am more interested in two ideas to consider:
Maybe there is an alternative way to donate land for public use on St. John than the VI National Park, since any mandate that our tax dollars go to keeping these areas open to the public seems to be in question. Really, who closes the Ocean?!
Living on the island already means you are working with limited resources – of income, food, entertainment, etc. Many are happy with that, of course, but when you close access to 65 or 75% of the entire island, it hurts everyone in one way or another – vacationers who saved all year to come visit our beaches, those who charter boats for snorkeling and sailing to the bays, locals needing to cool off in an afternoon swim in the hottest month of the year or looking for some exercise by going on a hike…
In memory of the much loved eco-resort Maho Bay Camp on St. John, US Virgin Islands.