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Interactive Learning at the STXEEMP Visitor Center


The St. Croix East End Marine Park (STXEEMP) was the first territorial marine park established to protect the natural and cultural resources of the east end of St. Croix. Managed by  the VI Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR), Coastal Zone Management, the park includes 60 square miles of water, nearly 17 miles of beautiful shoreline, and the longest fringing reef in the US Virgin Islands. After years of work, the STXEEMP has built an impressive Visitor Center that will wow locals and visitors alike. Interactive and educational, the STXEEMP Visitor Center is fun for the whole family.

Exterior of the St. Croix East End Marine Park Visitor Center

While small in size, the new STXEEMP Visitor Center is a great way for the community to learn about the importance of our Marine Protected Areas (MPA).  Geared towards children and families, the multisensory exhibits are both educational and engaging.  As you enter the center, you’ll read about the organizations that are involved in protecting the STXEEMP and enjoy a multidimensional view of the shoreline and the creatures that call it home. 

Kelcie Troutman gives a tour of the interactive exhibits

Moving on you’ll learn about sustainable fishing through a touchscreen exhibit featuring responsible fishing practices and which seafoods are responsible food choices to avoid overfishing. Once you’ve gone through the information on the touchscreen, head to Castaway Corner where you can grab a magnetic fishing pole and “catch” different kinds of fish and crustaceans. When you pull up your catch, you’ll measure it to make sure it meets the minimum size requirements for taking, it’s in season, and it’s a sustainable choice according to the chart. This activity is an entertaining and interactive way for kids to learn about responsible fishing.  Okay, I’ll admit that even as an adult I found Castaway Corner fun; like an old-fashioned carnival fishing game.

Checking the size of our catch in Castaway Corner

Continuing on, you’ll walk through a simulated reef. Surrounded by 3D coral, as well as sounds and reflections of the sea, you can watch videos about the reefs around St. Croix while feeling like you’re underwater.  Learn why the coral reefs are important, and what you can do to help protect the reefs and keep them healthy.

The underwater reef exhibit features short movies and 3D coral

You’ll also learn about the local watershed. What is a watershed and why is it important? When you visit this exhibit you can use the interactive touchscreen and accompanying watershed model to learn the answers to these questions and more.  You’ll also learn about the historical use of some of the Caribbean Sea’s resources here on St. Croix including sand, sea turtles, queen conch and coral itself.

Learn all about the watershed and why it’s important in this exhibit

To wrap up your time at the STXEEMP Visitor Center, ask about trying the virtual reality goggles, which allow you to look below the surface of the sea. You’ll feel like you’re diving right alongside the experts as you learn about underwater life on the reef. A classroom experience is also available, so inquire about its use in your class if you are an educator! Before you leave, be sure to take a selfie and share what you learned on the giant chalkboard. If you feel like sharing, please #STXEEMP in your social media pictures so that DPNR and the Friends of the St. Croix East End Marine Park can see them. 

Virtual reality goggles make you feel like your diving on a reef

The STXEEMP Visitor Center is definitely worth a trip out to the East End. Starting in April the center will be open on Thursdays and Fridays from 9:30am-4pm, and starting in May it will also be open the first Saturday of each month. To see learn more about the areas included in the STXEEMP, you can download a map and brochure here. Make it a day by packing a lunch and eating at one of their shady picnic tables outside and visiting a nearby beach or Great Salt Pond.  If you would like to support the amazing work being done here, consider joining Friends of the St. Croix East End Marine Park. This non-profit organization helps the STXEEMP with many of their programs and outreach events including the Seagrass Patrol, Turtle Patrol, beach clean ups, guided snorkel tours of the coral nursery at Cramer’s Park, and much more. Check out the fantastic video MJS Visions did to highlight the STXEEMP and it’s many programs:

If you have questions about the STXEEMP, or would like more information about scheduling a tour at the Visitor Center, please email Kelcie Troutman at Kelcie.Troutman@vi.gov. If you want to help with this important work you can volunteer your time with Friends of the STXEEMP, or click here to donate. Thank you all of those involved with the STXEEMP, this Visitor Center is such an incredible addition to St. Croix and a great way to teach future generations about the importance of protecting our natural resources.

-Jennie Ogden, Editor

 

 

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