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Judge orders Virgin Islands beach reopened

January 4, 1996
Web posted at: 12:45 a.m. EST

ST. CROIX, U.S. Virgin Islands (CNN) -- A federal judge Wednesday ordered the National Park Service to reopen the Buck Island Reef National Monument despite the ongoing federal budget crisis.

Two Virgin Island residents sued in federal district court to have the park reopened, arguing they were being hurt by the closure of the beach at Buck Island. They said the shutdown had denied them the ability of "freely enjoying a cherished natural resource." They further argued that the Park Service had violated the federal Open Shorelines Act by closing the beach.

The National Park Service argued it had no choice because the budget crisis had forced it to reduce the normal staff of "two to three employees" to one employee and one volunteer.

Further, the government contended that it might suffer legal liability if it opened the beach at Buck Island "in the present understaffed condition."

But Judge Raymond L. Finch ruled that the Park Service must reopen the site. He said he felt the liability of the government would not be increased by operating with one employee rather than the usual two or three.

Finch said he believed the plaintiffs were likely to prevail if the case went to trial and issued an order immediately requiring the Park Service to reopen the beach.

Buck Island, located off the North-East coast of St. Croix, became a national monument under a proclamation signed by President John F. Kennedy on December 28, 1961.


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