The Creation of the Virgin Islands National Park on St. John
The United States of America purchased the Danish West Indies, now called the United States Virgin Islands, from Denmark in 1917. Right from the beginning of American ownership of the islands there was talk in official circles of creating a national park in the area. In 1936 the National Park Service, recognizing St. John's immense beauty, historical significance and potential for recreational development, conducted an official appraisal of the island.
In spite of these factors the conclusion was that St. John did not qualify for park status. The reasons for the decision were that the island was no longer in its natural state after so many years of intense sugar cane cultivation, and that St. John was not in need of national park protection as there was no pressure towards commercial development at that time.
In 1939 the National Park Service made a second assessment of St. John. This time the conclusion was to make the entire island a national park. However, with United States attention focused on the coming Second World War, the St. John National Park proposal faded into obscurity.
In the early 1950s, St. John experienced a spurt in tourism and related commercial development. The National Park Service renewed their interest in establishing a park in St. John.
Also in the early 1950s, Laurance Rockefeller, along with the Rockefeller family and associates founded the Jackson Hole Preserve Corporation, a non profit conservation and educational organization. He acquired more than 5,000 acres of land on St. John which were eventually donated to the Federal government.
On August 2, 1956 President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed Public Law 925 establishing the Virgin Islands National Park in "a portion of the Virgin Islands of the United States containing outstanding scenic and other features of national significance". On December 1, 1956 the Virgin Islands National Park was dedicated and became the 29th National Park in the United States as "a sanctuary wherein natural beauty, wildlife, and historic objects will be conserved unimpaired for the enjoyment of the people and generations yet unborn".