Vital $20K Eco Serendib Beach Restoration Project to Protect St. John Coast Expands; Program Combats Erosion & Reduces Carbon Footprint in the US Virgin Islands

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Eco Serendib Villa and Spa, an eco-friendly luxury retreat on St. John in the USVI, underwrites a $20K beach conservation project. The Eco Serendib Beach Restoration Project plants indigenous trees along the coastline to combat the devastating impact of erosion while counteracting carbon emissions and allows villa guests the opportunity for hands-on involvement.

Harith Wickrema and Gary Ray examine sea grape seedling planted as part of the Eco Serendib Beach Restoration Project on St. John in the US Virgin Islands

Harith Wickrema of Eco Serendib (left) with Gary Ray, Ph.D., restoration ecologist on the Eco Serendib Beach Restoration Project (right)

"Our beaches are a national treasure and critical to the sustainable economy of the USVI. It is our hope that others in the hospitality community will be inspired to set aside funds too," said Harith Wickrema of Eco Serendib Villa and Spa.

Eco Serendib Villa and Spa, an eco-friendly, luxury retreat on St. John, has granted more than $15,000 in additional funding to Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park, a non-profit dedicated to the preservation and protection of the national park, for the continuation of the Eco Serendib Beach Restoration Project. This crucial conservation effort, funded solely by Eco Serendib, protects St. John’s coastline from the damaging impact of erosion while reducing the carbon footprint by re-introducing indigenous trees and shrubs, such as sea grape, at beaches throughout St. John. The funds come from monies the intimate villa sets aside from reservations. Nearly $20,000 in total has been donated since the beginning of 2012 shortly after the villa’s grand opening, particularly significant considering Eco Serendib has just eight suites. Villa guests also have the opportunity to become involved with the green project should they wish through tours, demonstrations and even hands-on planting, cultivating and irrigation.

“It is a privilege to be able to underwrite these vital efforts through the continuation of the Eco Serendib Beach Restoration Project,” explained Harith Wickrema, Eco Serendib’s chief visionary officer. “We created the program last year as a way to give back to the island and expand our commitment to conservation beyond the borders of the property. Our beaches are a national treasure and critical to the sustainable economy of the USVI. It is our hope that others in the hospitality community will be inspired to set aside funds too – even just a dollar for each reservation night would make a meaningful contribution toward conservation efforts.” Wickrema, who is also president of Harith Productions and faculty member of Temple University’s School of Tourism and Hospitality Management where he created its Sustainable Event Management curriculum, was recognized by Lodging magazine as one of the top ten hospitality innovators in the area of sustainability for his efforts onsite at Eco Serendib Villa and Spa. Among the 82 industry awards & nominations he’s garnered are the Successful Meetings and Meeting News Greenest Planner Award. He’s also a trustee of the Green Meeting Industry Council’s Sustainable Meetings Foundation.

“When we learned the challenges of obtaining a government grant to protect our beaches from erosion, we approached Eco Serendib Villa and Spa as they have a program that allocates funds from reservations to protect against beach erosion. Eco Serendib agreed not only to continue their support but also to fund the entire project,” explained Joe Kessler, president of Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park. “This kind of social responsibility sets an excellent example for others in the community.”

“The main attractions of St. John are our beautiful beaches and the national park. If our beaches are eroded, it will not only hurt us environmentally, but will negatively impact tourism – a major economy here,” said Brion FitzGerald, superintendent of Virgin Islands National Park. “We appreciate Eco Serendib’s support of this project which will allow for planting some 216 native trees on our pristine beaches.”

The Eco Serendib Beach Restoration Project was initiated last year with $4,000 in seed funding. In 2012, Maho Bay Beach was the first to benefit from the Eco Serendib Beach Restoration Project. This year the project will expand to include Hawksnest, Trunk Bay, Cinnamon Bay and Francis Bay. Gary Ray, Ph.D., a restoration ecologist and proprietor of Virgin Forest Restorations, drew up the plans and oversees the process under the guidance of the Virgin Islands National Park. Plantings include sea grape, nothing nut, orange manjack, black torch and barbasco – plants that are native to the Virgin Islands and better able to control erosion, while discouraging invasive exotics. Areas of shade and new walkways are being created to ensure foot traffic doesn’t damage dunes. Plantings of seedlings have begun and the project will continue throughout the year.

About Eco Serendib Villa and Spa:

Eco Serendib Villa and Spa is an exclusive retreat that sets new standards for eco-friendly luxury on St. John in the USVI. With eight elegant suites, a full-service spa, organic “seed to plate” garden and full complement of amenities and services, Eco Serendib offers a sumptuous and serene home-base. Green elements include solar panels, rain water harvesting, eco materials in design, energy-efficient appliances, grey water irrigation and more. Visit http://www.ecoserendib.com.

About Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park:

The Friends of Virgin Islands National Park (Friends) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and protection of the natural and cultural resources of Virgin Islands National Park and promotes the responsible enjoyment of this unique national treasure. As the official private sector partner to the Park, the Friends is a membership organization that raises funds from individuals, corporations and foundations to support projects important to the Park and to further the mission. http://www.friendsvinp.org.

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Lisa Herbst
Eco Serendib Villa and Spa
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