Park Service Runs Entrepreneur Aground


All Wilfred "Junie" Allick wanted to do was to make a living from sailing. But the National Park Service appears eager to stop Allick from pursuing his trade.

Allick owns the North Star, the only nonmotorized charter boat in the U.S. Virgin Islands. In the late 1960s, Allick began to offer excursions to the Buck Island Reef National Monument, a popular tourist destination one-and-a-half miles away from the territorial capital of St. Croix.

In 1978 the National Park Service required charter boat operators to obtain permits to sail to Buck Island. Shortly thereafter, the Service began an "attrition" policy designed to reduce the number of charter boat operators who offered excursions to the island, claiming that "predatory price cutting" meant that operators could not make fair profits. In 1978, 23 operators offered trips to the island; today, 7 do. Not only has the service restricted competition, it has also allowed those who have licenses to get more. Today, one Park Service-approved licensee has 12 boats; another has 6. All the licensees are from the mainland United States; none are native Virgin Islanders.

Allick was originally given a license in 1979, but in 1981 he took his 90-year-old boat ashore for extensive repairs. The Park Service allowed him to suspend service until February 1982. Because Allick was three weeks late in getting his antique boat seaworthy, the Park Service suspended his license and has not renewed it. Today, Allick can only sail to Buck Island if he does not charge for his services.

After losing his license, Allick's income fell drastically. But unlike other native Virgin Islanders, Allick did not abandon the sea. Today, he struggles to earn a living in the trade he has practiced for the past 25 years.

On August 14 the Landmark Legal Foundation's Center for Civil Rights, a market-oriented public interest law firm, filed suit in the U.S. District Court in Washington asking that Allick be given a license and that the National Park Service abandon the "attrition" policy. Allick's attorney, Clint Bolick, sees the case as one that will help confirm the notion that government cannot capriciously force businesspeople to abandon their trade.

"If Junie Allick was on welfare and his check was denied, he would face far more due process than he would in this case," Bolick says. As of press time, the Park Service had not responded to Allick's suit. Informal efforts by Allick's congressman, Rep. Ron de Lugo (D–V.I.), to persuade the Park Service to issue a permit had also not proven successful.