If You Want to Preserve Caneel, We Need Your Help

(Image taken in December 2017)

(Image taken in December 2017)

Hello everyone and happy Sunday! Last week we told you about the current situation over at Caneel Bay and how CBI Acquisitions, LLC, the company that is currently managing Caneel, is trying to obtain a 60-year extension on the Retained Use Estate (RUE) agreement with the help of Congresswoman Stacy Plaskett. There are so many things wrong with this. For starters, when Laurence Rockefeller signed over the Caneel parcel to the US government for $1 back in 1983, he did so under the assumption that the property, its buildings and its facilities would be turned over to the Virgin Islands National Park in 2023. CBI and Plaskett are trying to prevent that from happening. Second, in 2010, Congress determined that the current RUE agreement was not in the best interest of the VI National Park and that it should be converted to a concession agreement. CBI and Plaskett are trying to prevent that from happening. Lastly, they are trying to convince the government that it is acceptable that CBI pay a mere 1.2 percent return to the federal government. (They currently pay nothing.) Not only is this absurdly low, but it is also in direct contradiction to what Congress determined back in 2010, which was that the return should be given to the Park Service, not the General Treasury. So yet again, CBI and Plaskett are working together and Plaskett, who is the Virgin Islands elected representative, is clearly not working on our behalf but working hand-in-hand with the people who will profit off of Caneel. Makes you wonder why now, doesn’t it…

Caneel is also saying that it needs $100 million to rebuild. This is nonsense. Caneel had insurance. Caneel also has a two year interruption policy. And the icing on the cake- Caneel did absolutely nothing to protect its property despite the fact that one of the strongest hurricanes on record was barreling right toward it. They did not board up windows, sliding doors, nothing. Again, makes you wonder why…

So you may be wondering at this point how you can help. Well it’s simple. We need you to write or get on the phone and voice your concerns. Congresswoman Plaskett’s bill is set to go before the House Natural Resources Committee this Wednesday. At that time, they will make a FINAL decision as to what the future is over at Caneel.

Please either call the Committee of Natural Resources at (202) 225-2761 or email them here. By clicking this link, you can fill out a quick form to let them know your thoughts. Please refer to H.R. 4731. That is the name of Plaskett’s bill.

The National Parks Traveler published a great article this morning that details everything wrong with what Plaskett is proposing. They attempted to speak with Plaskett several times, but she’s refused. Please take a few minutes and read it in its entirety. And then please get on the phone or start writing. We truly need your help with this.

Traveler’s View: Corporate Welfare At Caneel Bay In Virgin Islands National Park?
By Kurt Repanshek, National Parks Traveler

A private equity firm with global operations that include luxury hotels, ski resorts, and transportation interests such as shipping and railcars is on the brink of what appears to be a sweetheart deal to operate a luxury resort inside Virgin Islands National Park for just about the rest of the century.

While Laurance S. Rockefeller intended for the Caneel Bay Resort, which he built on St. John in 1956, to transfer to the National Park Service in 2023, the principals of Stoneleigh Capital, LLC, have convinced U.S. Rep. Stacy Plaskett, D-Virgin Islands, that they’ll only rebuild the hurricane-battered resort if they can operate it for the next 60 years.

In return, Stoneleigh Capital subsidiary CBI Acquisitions, LLC, which generates about $65 million a year for St. John’s economy, will pay the federal government 1.2 percent on gross receipts.


But first, some history.

Mr. Rockefeller, a philanthropist and conservation giant whose support of the national parks movement spanned the country from Acadia National Park in Maine to Redwoods National and State Parks in California, fell in love with St. John during a cruise in the Caribbean. In 1956, he purchased 5,000 acres and gave it to the government to create Virgin Islands National Park, but held back about 170 acres on the island’s northwestern shore, the Caneel Bay Plantation, to create a resort.

Twenty-seven years later, on September 13, 1983, he signed the acreage over to the Interior Department, but crafted a “Retained Use Estate” to allow his resort to operate through September 2023. In that RUE document, he made clear his intent that the facilities eventually would become property of the national park.

Rep. Plaskett is willing to ignore his directive. Instead, she wants to extend that RUE for 60 years. And while it does call for CBI to pay the federal government 1.2 percent on gross revenues, her legislation would enable CBI to avoid paying the federal government anything if it spends money on preservation, maintenance, restoration, improvements, or repairs at Caneel Bay.

Put another way, if CBI builds additional facilities to serve the visitor base, those costs could be deducted from what would be owed the government. Routine maintenance — paint, gardening, repairing tennis courts, docks, etc. — all theoretically could be deducted from that fee.

And there’s a lot to maintain at the resort, where nightly room rates start around $600. Three restaurants, tennis and basketball courts, massage cabanas and beauty lounges, bars, a business center, a pool, a soccer pitch, trails, a dive shop, and a fitness center, plus 166 guest rooms. Most of those rooms were damaged by last fall’s hurricane duo, Irma and Maria. So much damage was done that the resort isn’t expected to open this year.

Nevertheless, simply maintaining and improving their bottom line could deduct from any revenues CBI would send the federal government for being able to operate from one of the most idyllic settings in the National Park System. So the deal Rep. Plaskett has put her name to isn’t that far off from the deal CBI has been operating under since 2004, when it assumed the RUE from Jackson Hole Preserve, a Rockefeller family nonprofit organization that had operated Caneel Bay. Under that deal, neither Jackson Hole Preserve, nor CBI, paid the government anything for benefitting from the tropical setting.

“In the amount of required capital and time required to redesign and rebuild, and the time required to reestablish a resort in a highly competitive marketplace, a minimum 60-year term is necessary,” Gary D. Engle, CEO of Stoneleigh and a member of the executive board that oversees Caneel Bay, told the House Federal Lands Subcommittee last week.

Mr. Engle uses the phrase “highly competitive marketplace,” but the fact is that Caneel Bay Resort is the only substantial resort on the island of St. John and the only one inside the national park. When one has to take a ferry ride to reach St. John and Caneel Bay, are hotels on St. Thomas or in the British Virgin Islands, hotels that also were damaged by the hurricanes, really competition?

There are a lot of holes in the existing RUE, and in the legislation Rep. Plaskett — who has ignored several requests from the Traveler to discuss the matter — to cause concern. There is nothing to prevent CBI from building new structures on the property, and no Park Service oversight to see that cultural, archaeological, and natural resources are not harmed, directly or indirectly, inadvertently or advertently.

And unlike other concession agreements in the park system, this proposal would run for 60 years — most Park Service concessions contracts typically run for a decade — and carries that absurdly low 1.2 percent return for the federal government (though after 15 years, it can be renegotiated, up or down).

How absurd is it? At Grand Canyon National Park, the Park Service sought a 14 percent franchise fee for concessionaires seeking to operate lodges on the South Rim before settling for 8 percent on a contract that runs 15 years. At Gulf Islands National Seashore, the Service sought a 9.2 percent franchise fee on retail operations. At Yellowstone National Park, the franchise fee is 4.5 percent, but the concessionaire, Xanterra Parks & Resorts, also has to provide a 6 percent annual contribution to a maintenance account. That contract, signed in 2013, is an outlier in that it runs for 20 years.

Beyond that, a St. John resident, Pam Gaffin, says CBI not only was insured for hurricane damage, but also carried “two years of business interruption insurance where they get paid to stay closed.”

“The other concessions in the park pay far more than what is being asked of Caneel — Redwoods, who actually invested money in Cinnamon Bay because Caneel had let it run down so bad, got a 15-year lease and has to pay 2.5 percent of gross receipts, Caneel Bay Watersports got a 10-year lease and pays 4 percent, Paradise Agua Tours has a 3-year lease and pays 3 percent,” Ms. Gaffin, who runs a tour business on the island, wrote in the News of St. John blog.

At the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, Phil Francis, who in recent days has talked to Park Service personnel involved in 2010 when Congress directed the agency to study converting the RUE into a concessions agreement, is concerned about Rep. Plaskett’s proposal.

“I have concerns about the length of the proposed agreement. I think that the fee should not be set in stone,” said Mr. Francis, who chairs the Coalition’s executive committee. “I think that periodic analysis should be done to detemine what the fee should be, just as would happen in a park concession.

“And I think if the RUE goes forward, there should be environmental protections included to ensure that the property within the boundaries of the Virgin Islands National Park are protected,” he added Friday. “And I think there should be some control over the type of facilities that are constructed there to ensure that they are consistent with the national park.”

Mr. Engle shouldn’t be faulted for trying to leverage the best deal he can. After all, as he told the committee last week: “Running the resort as we did, and as I think we can, has a positive return on capital. In other words, I can make money, which is my line of business. I can make money running the resort.”

But at day’s end, the resort lies within Virgin Islands National Park, which is owned by all Americans who, if a $600-a-night luxury resort is to benefit from that national park setting, should be adequately compensated, and the natural, cultural, archaeological, and historical resources on that 170-acre property should be protected by the Park Service.

On Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Committee will take final action on Rep. Plaskett’s bill.

Rep. Plaskett can be reached via email or by phone at 202-225-1790.

Again, please either call the Committee of Natural Resources at (202) 225-2761 or email them here. Please refer to H.R. 4731. That is the name of Plaskett’s bill. Please help us preserve Caneel Bay. 

71 comments for “If You Want to Preserve Caneel, We Need Your Help

  1. pam
    March 4, 2018 at 10:43 am

    Can you add a link so this can be shared on facebook and other sites?
    I live in Woodstock, VT and would like to share this on it’s online local sites.

  2. Rob
    March 4, 2018 at 10:51 am

    At first glance this is the same old game of politicians playing their political games, Plaskett’s silence tells me all I need to know. Wonder what kinda deal she is getting.

  3. Wendell O. L. Sedgewick
    March 4, 2018 at 10:56 am

    I am a lobbyist and I can tell you that I know lobbyists working on this case. It is particularly disturbing to me. I feel it is in the best interest of the nation if the national park service operates the hotel. This will truly make it a hotel for the people.

    • Scott Parker
      March 4, 2018 at 3:23 pm

      How will this make it a “hotel for the people”?
      What is the National Parks plans for the site and where is their funding coming from?

    • Jens
      March 4, 2018 at 9:40 pm

      I disagree. Neither the park service nor the VI government have the ability or skill to run Caneel. It needs to continue to be operated as a private resort. Whether the Park or the VI gov make money off of the lease is immaterial. The benefit is in the visitors that Caneel brings in who I turn spend $ on the island .

    • David
      March 4, 2018 at 11:08 pm

      Unless they tear the buildings down and put up tents, it will never be a hotel for the people. It is enormously expensive to run and will always have high room rates. No, not as high as today, but nowahere near “hotel for the people” rates. No concessioneer is going to operate the place at a loss. Room rates started at around 450, not 600 as the article falsely states,and they may be lower than that, but we are not talking 200/night at that resort.

  4. rob
    March 4, 2018 at 11:07 am

    letter sent!!!!

  5. Robert Y Prickett
    March 4, 2018 at 11:12 am

    I agree and thanks to you Jenn for doing what you do on!

    To ease the burden of others and to provide a template, if desried, below is what I sent my congressman and in modified form, the committee. Since the referred to Rep. Hice sits on the committee, I asked my guy, Rep. Loudermilk, to engage him. Being a good Republican, in my opinion, an agreeable compromise is needed to meet the goal of rebuilding with preservation and not blindly give away a treasured resource.

    The Honorable Barry Loudermilk,

    I am urging that you engage the support of your colleague from Georgia’s 10th Congressional District, Representative Jody Hice, to vote against passing H.R. 4731, out of committee without substantial modification, when it comes to vote March 7.

    My request is founded in the following:

    The proposed length of extension to the Retained Use Agreement (RUE) for Caneel Bay Resort in St. John, US Virgin Islands, goes far beyond the term that would be required to compensate the operators for rebuilding post hurricane.

    The proposed concession fee of 1.2% is absurdly low when compared to others operating in the National Park Service realm.

    The proposal grossly violates the intent of the donor and benefactor, Laurence Rockefeller, whose gift allowed the creation of Virgin Islands National Park and who wished that this land be turned over to the National Park Service upon expiration of the RUE in 2023,

    Sincerely yours,

    Robert Prickett

  6. Sandy Allen
    March 4, 2018 at 1:01 pm

    Just sent email to Committee. Hope it helps. Time to vote out these politicians who change the rules to suit their own agendas.

  7. Jo
    March 4, 2018 at 1:20 pm

    You can also post on House Committee of Natural Resources Facebook page:

  8. Eric Thomas
    March 4, 2018 at 1:20 pm

    Thanks for this article! Also, there is a dedicated Facebook page at Protect Caneel

  9. March 4, 2018 at 1:27 pm

    Letter sent!

  10. Ernie X. O. Oxendine
    March 4, 2018 at 1:32 pm

    I will vote with my money by never going to Caneel Bay again if the corporation rips off the USA. And I have been 37 times to the resort over the last 20 years.

    • David
      March 4, 2018 at 10:46 pm

      Why would you stop now? This deal, as the article says, isn’t terribly dissimilar from the deal they had the 37 times you were there.

  11. damon
    March 4, 2018 at 1:32 pm

    What I don’t hear discussed is the desires of Laurance Rockefeller. His wishes should be honored first and foremost trusting that he had the right idea all along. He wanted the property to return to Park. We should do so. that means no hotels – just its natural beautiful state

    • Scott Parker
      March 4, 2018 at 3:31 pm

      Fact check. Rockefeller created a resort at Caneel Bay. I am pretty his intent was a resort.

      • News of St. John
        News of St. John
        March 4, 2018 at 3:55 pm

        No one is saying it shouldn’t be a resort. The issue is with the terms of the agreement.

        • Scott Parker
          March 4, 2018 at 5:13 pm

          Seems to me that the island has benefit for years from the tourism brought in by Caneel Bay. How many millions is that? It is also true that all of the resorts beaches are fully available and open to the public. It is also true the only beach on St John that is not open to the public is Trunk Bay which is operated by the Virgin Island State Park, how much do they rape the public for annually to gain access? Also to state that Caneel is the only resort on the island is a bald face lie. Why not mention the Westin and their 1000+ room resort on the other side of the island? Or the 100’s of villa rentals around the island. Let’s be fair, your story is slanted to benefit your perspective and to paint the operators of Caneel Bay as money hungry thieves.

          • TrvlJohn
            March 4, 2018 at 5:30 pm

            All the beaches and trails are not open to the public. I have been stopped more than once if I try to go anywhere other than Honeymoon or Salomon.

            They are, by contract, supposed to be open to the public but the NPS will not enforce the contract.

          • David
            March 4, 2018 at 11:01 pm

            Scott, I’m a regular Caneel gues and I’ve written to my representative as well, but in favor of the bill. My view may be unpopular here, but I vote too. However, your assertion that Caneel’s beaches and trails are open to all just isn’t right. I’ve been on Scott beach to see people who arrived from the water be told to leave. The beaches must be public, at least to the high tide mark so people who arrive by water and are not using amenenities reserved for guests, should be, but generally are not, permitted to stay. I want the RUE to be renewed, but let’s keep the facts straight.

  12. Gwen Whiteman
    March 4, 2018 at 1:56 pm

    I sent the requested email. Hoping everyone who reads your article does the same.

  13. Mike Mullen
    March 4, 2018 at 1:57 pm

    Yes, I agree 1.2% is probably very low as a percent of gross receipts.

    But isn’t Caneel also paying 12.5% lodging tax to USVI?

    • Eduardo
      March 4, 2018 at 4:39 pm

      Agreed but you pay it, if you stay there. Caneel collects and remits and into the black hole it goes.

      • David
        March 4, 2018 at 10:48 pm

        But that black hole is the VI government, it is a local sales tax. Presumably, there is some benefit to the VI, but not the park, in receiving about 8 million dollars a year in taxes form Caneel.

    • Larry
      March 5, 2018 at 12:00 pm

      NO—-the overnight lodgers pay the tax————-Caneel PAYS NOTHING !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. HelenL
    March 4, 2018 at 3:20 pm

    Email sent. Thanks Jenn, I would not have known about this but for you and the site.

  15. patrick
    March 4, 2018 at 3:23 pm

    just sent them a letter with one the the links!

  16. Mary Ellen
    March 4, 2018 at 4:09 pm

    Email sent- I agree that what Rockefeller intended is as it should be. Unfortunate that our own politicians become so self- serving and do not represent the wishes of their constituents.

    • David
      March 6, 2018 at 6:48 pm

      Have you considered that perhaps she is representing the wishes of her electorate? Maybe they want the taxes the property throws off and their jobs back. We are but a handful commenting on the fate of the resort and not one of us relies on its continued existence to feed our family. It isn’t true that everyone who disagrees with you is wrong.

  17. Larry Hines
    March 4, 2018 at 4:19 pm

    Stacy Plaskett ??????————-has anyone investigated this person’s “involvment” with the developers of Caneel Bay—–something seems mighty fishy here—-follow the money !!!!—-looks alot like old fashion payola to me. If there’s a bad apple, let’s expose it.

    • David
      March 5, 2018 at 2:29 pm

      Or perhaps her opinion of what is in the VI’s best interests is different from yours. I love this “it’s my way or it’s somehow evil” mentality. Reasonable people can just disagree. Maybe she prioritizes the 400 jobs and lost tax revenue over other things.

  18. Jan/Ken Binder
    March 4, 2018 at 4:32 pm

    I also would like to SHARE with former Caneel Bay staff whom I certain would like to respond…Please and thank you!

  19. Debi
    March 4, 2018 at 4:34 pm


    Have you been fortunate enough to travel to St. John, USVI? If not, you need to visit one of the UNITED STATES most amazing territories. This little slice of heaven is beyond incredible.

    As you know, TWO Category 5 hurricanes ripped through this island in Sept. 2017, causing widespread devastation. One of the affected properties was Caneel Bay, an upscale resort housed inside the Virgin island National Park.

    As an island that relies on tourism, the loss of Caneel Bay and the Westin Resort has further hindered the recovery. As the largest employer on the island, it is imperative that Caneel Bay continue to operate on this land. Not only for tourism but for the residents who have found themselves jobless and may remain homeless.

    The proposed length of extension to the Retained Use Agreement (RUE) for Caneel Bay Resort in St. John, US Virgin Islands, goes far beyond the term that would be required to compensate the operators for rebuilding post hurricane.

    The proposed concession fee of 1.2% is absurdly low when compared to others operating in the National Park Service realm.

    The proposal grossly violates the intent of the donor and benefactor, Laurence Rockefeller, whose gift allowed the creation of Virgin Islands National Park and who wished that this land be turned over to the National Park Service upon expiration of the RUE in 2023.

    Please support the benefactor’s wishes.

  20. Larry Hines
    March 4, 2018 at 4:40 pm

    Just followed up with an email as suggested. Thanks Jenn, as usual, for keeping us informed. Hope you’ll keep us up to date about the outcome of the upcoming vote.

  21. Sue Chapelle
    March 4, 2018 at 4:41 pm

    What proposals for modifications to the bill are out there? Any bill can have amendments.

  22. Christine Phaneuf
    March 4, 2018 at 4:43 pm

    Wow. Incredibly enlightening. Cancel was beautiful but way out of almost everyone’s price range. Time to honor the Rockefeller Legacy and return it to the people. I will be following up with my reps!

  23. Harith
    March 4, 2018 at 5:47 pm

    Thankn you Jenn, for making this knowledge more visible and public. Please do keep educating all us us. we appreciate your efforts and the reach you have from your site.

    I feel the new agreement should be bidded out and have a clause to benefit in some small way the island of st. john . 1.2% by any standard is a give away. the fact that it does provide employment and it pays 12.5% occupancy tax , should not be oart of the equation as any new hotel operator would be pying that as well.
    keep up the good work Jenn.

  24. N. L. Wilson
    March 4, 2018 at 5:57 pm

    Give Caneel Bay back to the national park. It belongs to St. John’s Island!!

  25. Jon Schutt
    March 4, 2018 at 6:55 pm

    This is the National Park Mission Statement “The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.” Caneel Bay belongs to Us the American People. All Virgin Islandars or visitors to the Virgin Islands, if you or your children are on St John and wish to go to Caneel Bay to enjoy, learn or be inspired that is what should happen now and into perpetuity.

  26. Julie
    March 4, 2018 at 7:36 pm

    Sent to both links! :) Stacey is shady.

  27. Ann M
    March 4, 2018 at 7:45 pm

    First let me be clear that I do not know any of the players in the Caneel deal. So not endorsing CBI or Stacey Plaskin. But are there other hotel companies who have pitched the U.S. Government to take over? If so, what were their terms? Were they better than current? If not, why not? What type of stewardship is expected from the hotel/ resort company that takes over Caneel? Could we do a lot worse? The resort has basically not changed for 50 years. Will other companies operate with the same type of restraint and respect for the environment? It does sound like this is a good deal for CBI. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a good deal for St. John too. The sooner Caneel gets rebuilt, the sooner they hire and fuel the St. John economy. If the government can get a higher tax than 1.2% then they should try to do that. But perhaps CBI will walk away. And there are no other takers. Or worse, a taker who does not respect the island’s people, beauty and history. The other option is that the resort goes away. That may be preferable than having the wrong hotel company. But revenues and employment will go down for the island.

  28. usvigirl
    March 4, 2018 at 8:05 pm

    For those who are looking for a starting template for your emails, please feel free to use:

    I am writing to voice my concerns about the future of Caneel Bay Resort.
    Laurence Rockefeller expressed his wish in 1983 to return Caneel Bay back to the National Park through his retained use estate.

    While most Park Service concessions typically run for a decade, I was shocked to hear that this proposal contained a 1.2% return for the federal government, not to be renegotiated for 15 years, under a 60 year term. Grand Canyon National Park has a contract that has an 8% return. Yellowstone has a 4.5% franchise fee, while Xanterra Parks provides an additional 6% annual contribution to a maintenance account.

    CBI is insured for hurricane damage and carries two years of business interruption insurance. However, is it true that no preparations were made to protect property for Irma’s arrival?

    I am concerned that there is nothing to prevent CBI from building new structures on the property, and there is no Park Service oversight to see that cultural, archaeological, and natural resources are not harmed, directly or indirectly, inadvertently or advertently.

    Gary D. Engle, CEO of Stoneleigh and a member of the executive board that oversees Caneel Bay, stated such requests are necessary because of a “highly competitive marketplace,” but the fact is that Caneel Bay Resort is the only substantial resort on the island of St. John and the only one inside the national park. With the Westin being converted to timeshare condos and without other eco-friendly beachfront resorts on St. John, I question the authenticity of this characterization.

    What is being done to ensure that the national park is being adequately compensated, and the natural, cultural, archaeological, and historical resources on that 170-acre property are being protected?

  29. Jay
    March 4, 2018 at 8:36 pm

    Email sent!

  30. Not a Lobbyist
    March 4, 2018 at 9:36 pm

    It’s obvious from Scott Parker’s posts he either is a lobbyist or works for the resort ownership group.
    I am in favor of tearing down all structures and making it an affordable campground at good prices, not exorbitant camping fees like at Caneel. This way anyone on any budget who wants to will truly be able to enjoy the property and beaches.

  31. Ken
    March 4, 2018 at 9:37 pm

    My wife and I have owned at the Westin since 1999, and have been visiting St. John since the Westin was a Hyatt. Just sent off a letter. Lets hope we can prevent this travesty. Everyone hold these folks accountable!

    • David
      March 4, 2018 at 10:53 pm

      The Westin is the travesty on that island.

      • Ann M
        March 5, 2018 at 12:24 am

        Westin values ( and others) would go up without the competition from Caneel resort. Reading the suggested letter, are there really serious concerns that “new structures” would be built at Caneel. I can’t think of a single new structure that has been built there in 40 years. Also, it sounds like there are suggestions of negligence on Caneel’s part before the storm. It would seem that their insurance would not pay out if that is the case. Again, still trying to figure out the real goal with this campaign. It doesn’t feel like it’s about saving Caneel which is the title of this blog. It feels like it’s about getting CBI to pay more for the use of the land so the U.S. Government collects more taxes. No judgement on that goal. But not sure that’s going to save Caneel. Others seem to want the Caneel resort gone and the land “given back to the people to enjoy”. No judgement on that either. But I’m not sure how this helps St. John thrive in the future.

  32. Sandra L. Bernstein
    March 4, 2018 at 10:54 pm

    I LOVE the idea of making it a CAMPGROUND!!!!!!! It’s a huge mass of land that is deforested so it is ideal!!!!!! All anyone needs on a tropical island is a tent or basic shelter like Cinnamon had. Keep baresites affordable at $25 a night and the grounds will be packed. The cash flow will be better because overhead will be lower. All the cash these visitors will be saving on expensive lodging will go toward boosting the island economy by supporting local businesses when they are out and about.

  33. Karen
    March 5, 2018 at 6:55 am

    According to the delegate’s bill, St John stands to lose approximately 500 jobs if Caneel closes. That’s a considerable amount for a place as small as St John. Will the National Park provide as many jobs with similar wages and benefits? If not, the people on St John will have fewer employment options.

    The Westin is now less of a hotel and now more of a timeshare/vacation ownership property as are several properties in USVI. The strictly hotel model must not have been sustainable so they opted for a model that provides a more reliable revenue stream.

    Rockefeller’s agreement was that the buildings would be turned over to the Park at the end of the RUE. Well, there are very few buildings to turn over after the storms, so if the property is to continue to offer lodging, somebody is going to have to build or rebuild. Is anybody other than Caneel willing to step up?

    Lots of questions and no answers. I’m looking for more info.

  34. Bernie
    March 5, 2018 at 8:03 am

    Hoping that Trump takes over the resort and pays the VI Parks a 10% of gross fee and maintains the property itself instead of writing off expenses like CBI does.

    For all you Trump haters, please go to one of his hotels to see how well you are treated. Especially research how he bid on and won the right to develop his DC hotel. He turned the crumbling Government Postal building into palace. https://www.trumphotels.com/washington-dc
    Also research how he saved the NYC Central Park skating rink: https://nypost.com/2017/01/22/saving-wollman-rink-made-trump-a-new-york-city-hero/

    Trump is far from perfect, but I trust his team over the folks involved with the CBI/Plaskett/ H.R. 4731 disaster.

    Make Caneel great again!

    • Ann
      March 5, 2018 at 9:16 am

      Hello British Virgin Islands. Time to check out of this blog and move on. Goodbye Jen. Thank you for all your wonderful reporting work. But this is not the St. John I know.

      March 6, 2018 at 11:20 am

      No Thanks…! Trump and his “management thugs” were just finally thrown out of the 70 story luxury hotel in the country of Panama..!! That was yesterday, and going forward he also will be removed from “the Peoples’ House on the mainland of the United States of America..!!!!

  35. Jack Johnson
    March 5, 2018 at 8:14 am

    Save Caneel– NOPE! Not after how they have treated people wanting to go on their property. Charging for parking, chasing you off beaches and charging insane money to stay there.

    Turn the property over to the NPS. Create affordable campgrounds, perhaps a casual place to eat, a few bars and beach access for the people staying at the camp ground and others. I can just imaging what the present operators of Caneel have up their sleeves.

    Screw um!

    Letter sent and phone call to be made later today!!

  36. Bill
    March 5, 2018 at 9:07 am

    Letter sent. Wouldn’t it be nice if Congress actually earned their salary/benefit package once in awhile and listened to the folks….

  37. Mike
    March 5, 2018 at 9:57 am

    Visited Caneel for the first time last summer, found it wonderful. Not at all interested in villas (hate having to drive on vacation).

    Charging for parking is essential to make sure there’s parking available for people actually paying to be there. I don’t know why so many people don’t get this.

    (As for accessing from the water and being kicked out, I sympathize; beaches were public by same rule where I grew up in Florida. That’s unexcusable, but providing free parking at the resort would just ensure the lot was always completely full – this is a fundamentally stupid idea).

    • David
      March 5, 2018 at 11:45 am

      They don’t care, Mike. Someone hurt their feelings while they were trespassing on property so now they want it shut down.

  38. Marla V.S. Turnbull
    March 5, 2018 at 10:00 am

    Exactly what I was thinking – SAVE CANEEL FOR WHAT???
    Save it for the 1%’ers who can afford to stay there?
    Caneel has far and away the best beaches with the best views on the island. They are inaccessible unless you are filthy rich. Otherwise, you will be chased off or treated like sh*t if you get caught on one by the a**hole resort staff.
    The island will be just fine without the high end resort.
    I also vote for a campground. It will bring more money to the island and FAR MORE PEOPLE.

  39. Gary P. Moore
    March 5, 2018 at 10:42 am

    We stopped coming to STJ when Cinnamon Bay Campground raised their rates AND ruined the bare site campsites by putting them too Close to each other. Their rates ALSO became ABSURD. I would book my flight right now if Caneel converted to a reasonably priced campground. I’m not riff raff. I just prefer to camp and absorb every ounce of nature I can. I come to STJ for nature. I have plenty of money to spend on restaurants and provisions in town. I could care less about helping 500 locals (mostly from STT) get benefits and cushy jobs pampering the wealthy elite. Converting Caneel to a campground might not employ 500 on site, but it would have a HUGE positive impact on local businesses, which will in turn offset any job loss at Caneel. The number of campers would be tenfold or fifty fold the number of hotel guests Caneel resort can put up. Virgin Islanders can always move stateside and work if they aren’t happy with their job status.

  40. Cricket
    March 5, 2018 at 11:18 am

    Thank you, Jenn! Emails sent!

  41. Barbara
    March 5, 2018 at 11:27 am

    My letter has been sent to the committee. Jenn, thanks for the constant updates. Whether Caneel opens next year or not, we are heading down.

  42. Bob
    March 5, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    As a regular visitor to Caneel for now close to 47 years, I fully support the efforts to extend the lease so that the resort can receive the funding necessary to reopen soon. Depending on season the rooms at Caneel can be very affordable…especially if the rooms are not on the beach. There is nothing wrong that the management company, that will invest millions of dollars, receives, a return on their investment. People who come to the Virgin Islands can afford the high air fares from the USA so they likely can afford the cost of a week at Caneel. Also, Caneel is an economic driver for the residents of the Virgin Islands by providing employment to service the resort, and providing ancillary benefits for the taxis, restaurants and shops outside the resort. I get a sense from the comments that there is a level of resentment from the folks who are commenting for those who want to come to St John to experience a high end vacation. Shame on you.

    • Usvigirl
      March 5, 2018 at 2:42 pm

      Bob- Thank you! I wholeheartedly agree with your statement. There is no reason to shame people who want to experience a high-end luxury beach vacation. I’m glad that some would want to only have a campground experience, others may want to have the choice between a resort and a campground, but don’t be snarky to those who choose to spend their hard-earned money how they choose. People of all walks of life, interests, and personalities wish to enjoy St John as they please, including giving back to the people who work and live in the VI. It is incredibly condescending to tell islanders to “just move” if they don’t like their current work environment or financial status after experiencing two level 1 hurricanes!

    • Roy
      March 5, 2018 at 7:51 pm

      The present management followed the goal of employing local talent in managing this beautiful property. They maintained it with love and talent. The CBI management via a IRMA Relief Fund raised ovef $400,000 for these employees, many of whom lost their homes and they jobs.

      It is sad that class envie is being used by the NPS to take over this national treasure. They have no idea how to run a resort nor do they intend to. They will let it and its employees rot. Sad.

  43. Abbey
    March 5, 2018 at 12:44 pm

    Caneel Bay is such an incredibly beautiful place. We stayed there in January 2013. Our Garden view room was $499.00 per night plus with taxes (20%) it brought it to $600.00 per night. We could only stay for two nights since it was pricey for us. So your comment about the average night stay being $ 600.00 is correct in my view.

    I would like to hear more from Congresswoman Plaskett about 1.5%
    in H.R. 4731 bill. Why is this so low?
    I would love to see this place be more accessible to people via a campground or a more reasonably priced accommodation keeping it’s natural beauty and character.
    Will send letter… thank you for the update.

  44. Judith Kates
    March 5, 2018 at 2:37 pm

    email sent to House committee

    I certainly hope that Caneel Bay resort can be rebuilt on a more ethical basis. It has provided much needed employment on St Johns and great pleasure to my family

  45. Roy
    March 5, 2018 at 7:33 pm

    The NPS has no ability to run a resort. Having stayed at many national parks all I got was food poisoning.
    The NPS seems totally uninterested in the workers who gave their lives to Caneel Bay and now are without employment and/or homes. The guests and friends of Caneel Bay raised over $400,000 for these wonderful people via the IRMA Relief Fund set up by CBI, if permitted, CBI will get them back to work faster than anyone.
    The NPS was directed by Congress to renegotiate the “lease” with CBI in 2010. They did nothing!

    The Caneel Bay Resort is a national treasure. However, the NPS, is run by rabid environmentalists. They would be happy to see it rot away and revert to nature. It makes me sick that these people who care not for the employees or the property may gain control over this treasure. The only winner will be the BVI, where the money will flow. The Rock Resort dream of building a resort with local labor and hiring local labor to run it will be dead if the NPS takes over.

  46. Not a Lobbyist
    March 7, 2018 at 12:37 am

    I love how all these lobbyists posing as ordinary people commenting on why the big corporation should get their way.

  47. Bob Natt
    March 7, 2018 at 10:44 am

    I just watched the House Committee on Natural Resources discuss the Caneel Bay bill. It was passed with one small amendment. Committee Chairman Bishop spoke very eloquently on behalf of the bill. This is a huge step forward to getting Caneel rebuilt and open once again. YEA!!!!!!!

  48. Jet Leah
    March 7, 2018 at 12:40 pm

    If Caneel wants my $600 a night it needs to school their staff on true 5 or 6 star service. I have never felt like the staff at Caneel was well trained. Stay in a 5 or 6 star hotel in Dubai if you want to see what good service really is.

  49. Briguy
    March 12, 2018 at 2:25 pm

    As a resident of St. John, a few thoughts

    The closing of Caneel and the Westin has been a huge blow to St. John’s economy. Many residents have had to move to the states to survive, including many that were born and raised here. Many local businesses will not survive

    CBI is not perfect, but neither is the park Service.

    The park has been a blessing to St John, both economically and in keeping much of St. John undeveloped and keeping it the special one place it is.

    Caneel, with its low-rise, low density development was very unusual, not what one typically thinks of as a resort.

    The goal of paying more taxes and lower room rates are incompatible

    There are hundreds of vacant acres and many beautiful beaches in the park, does it really need to all be a campground? I’ve done plenty of camping in my life but as I’ve gotten older I appreciate sleeping on a real bed, that some camping enthusiasts think all National Parks should be camping only strikes me as selfish and unreasonable.

    Laurence Rockefeller was a businessman. His gift to the park resulted in a huge tax deduction for him and resulted in his private resort being surrounded by vacant land that would never be developed, he didn’t have to pay property taxes on the land anymore and the roads, drainage and other infrastructure would be paid for by the government – pretty sweet deal
    I suspect the reversion of his leased property to the park at the end of the term (long after his death) was a legal requirement to get the tax deduction, don’t kid yourself, there may have been some altruism involved, but this was a business deal

    The park has its own agenda as revealed by the three years of delays in even presenting a lease to CBI

    Look at the millions of dollars in boats owned by the park service that are tied to the park dock that sit rotting and unused on what has to be one of the most valuable docks in the world, that tells me all I need to know about the park services “stewardship” of what is entrusted to it.

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