By John Urban
Jost Van Dyke, a four-and-a-half square mile rise on the northern edge of Caribbean Sea. An island that receives an armada of sailors and day boaters who descend upon waterfront establishments such as the Soggy Dollar Bar (home of the “Painkiller” rum drink), and Foxy’s (where Carib beer gets washed down with a fish, chicken, and ribs buffet).
Jost is the smallest of the four main islands that make up the British Virgin Islands. Unlike nearby Tortola, paved roads and expanded electricity are relatively new here – welcome advancements for residents, but factors that will put pressure on construction and development.
A few hundred people live on this island, which is more known for its water’s edge than its land mass. But what of the future for an island such as Jost Van Dyke?
You don’t have to look beyond our own homelands to understand the push and pull of economic development versus preservation. We are, after all, the creatures who polluted the rivers of the northeast, the ones who turned the great estuary of the Hudson River into the tainted waters of the Meadowlands, and the very same people who still tear at our interior lands. And on the other side of these forces of development, our own views on preservation often lead to land taxes and public takings that increase property values at a rate that displaces locals leaving behind seasonal playgrounds for the affluent.
And even if we held the answers to the ideal model for development, isn’t the goal of preserving a local community undermined, by definition, if change is driven from the outside? So one might wonder as to how this will play out on this small island that sits just north of Tortola and the US Virgin Islands.
A group of people on Jost saw an opportunity to get at this question, not by decree, but by example. A not-for-profit organization called the Jost Van Dykes Preservation Society was formed to advance youth leadership on the island through environmental education and research. The group’s first project is the construction of a 32-foot sloop (the Endeavour II), inspired by the “Tortola Boats” that once ran goods and supplies between Jost and its nearby sister island.
(The Endeavour II under construction)
As of the date of this post, the Endeavour II hull and deck are complete, its inboard diesel is installed, and a full-time shipwright is at work laying the cabin floor. And the island’s young people have participated, as well, putting in more than a thousand hours of combined labor and instruction as they take a role seeing this project move to completion.
The Endeavour II is being built to create historical and environmental awareness while increasing youth access to sail training. And if you were to ask Preservation board members Foxy Callwood or Bruce Donath, they’d tell you that as much as anything, the Endeavour II is about letting young islanders see that they can combine on a community project that advances the island while calling upon its history and natural resources.
If you are anchoring-in for a Painkiller at the Soggy Dollar or staying for dinner and entertainment at Foxy’s, be sure to stop by to see how construction is coming along on the Endeavour II. Or if you’re not in the area, check things out at Jvdps.org. And if you’re coming here sometime down the line, look for the Endeavor under sail – she’ll be telling you something about the island’s history, and its future.
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