The Current State of the Island – Part 3

coral bay sign

Hello and happy Monday! Time for part 3 today, and I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to write this!

Ok, so we left off over in the Francis/Annaberg area. Today, we’re going to head up the hill and over toward the Coral Bay side of the island.

So when you leave Francis and Annaberg, the area really does not look too bad. One thing that is noticeable to people who live here and to those of you who’ve visited here frequently is the fact that the wooded area on each side of the roadway isn’t as lush as it used to be. The trees in this area, and even more so as you get closer to Coral Bay, look scraggly in some spots. I’ve taken a lot of first-time visitors on island tours lately, and they’ve all said that this area looks great. So it’s really in the eye of the beholder.

So now we’re at the intersection where you can take a right and go down the one way to Maho or take a left and go up the hill toward Centerline Road. We’re taking a left.

As soon as you drive up the first switchback, you will see a large area on your left where there was a considerable mudslide several months back. It was so bad at times that it blocked the roadway. Fortunately this area is now under control. If you look behind you in this area, you can see big views of the Sir Francis Drake channel, Tortola and Little Thatch Island. These views were all opened up by Irma. As you continue up the hill toward Centerline, you will still see some downed wires that need to be removed. To your right, the trees are extremely scraggly looking in the Mamey Peak area. This area has been affected greatly; even my first time guests can see the storms’ impact here.

Now we’ve made it to Centerline Road, and what’s directly across the street – Colombo’s! We’re thrilled that the smoothie shack has reopened. (We wrote about it recently. Click here to check out that story.) I also love the hand-painted sign out front which gives some love to the BBC linemen. (For now, Colombo’s is closed on Tuesdays and Saturdays, so please plan accordingly.)

bbc coral bay sign

So we’re going to take a left and head toward Coral Bay. Now, the closer you get to Coral Bay, the more damage you can see. Some scenes are truly heartbreaking, but then you look at the views of the East End and Norman Island and they are simply stunning. It’s an interesting juxtaposition in this part of the island.

Ajax Peak is the first landmark we pass on our left, and while the area has been mostly cleaned out, there is still some remnants of trash on the side of the road.

As you drive east toward Coral Bay, the views on your right are vast. Many of the trees and shrubs fell during the storms, opening up very large views along the roadway. Speaking of views, there’s a new sugar mill in Coral Bay that can be seen off to your right. Clearly it is not new, but prior to Irma it was covered with foliage and was not visible from Centerline. You can see it pretty well from the Coral Bay overlook too. Walk up to the big rock and look down toward the roadway. The sugar mill is to the right of that.

Coral Bay overlook

Coral Bay overlook

From the overlook, you can see the full effects of the storm. Remember, Coral Bay saw winds of 200 miles per hour and stronger. There were also tornados scattered about the island and many in Coral Bay. You can see snapped trees, twisted trees, blue roofs, homes without roofs, and completely destroyed homes. There’s a home that appears to be in danger of falling down a hillside (we’ve been told its cistern is holding it in place), and another home that literally slid a bit downhill. To the right, you can see debris scattered about the hillsides, covered a bit these days by the brush that has grown in over the past six months. To the left, there are numerous areas where there were major rockslides after the storms. Again, it’s all extremely sad.

But looking at the glass half full, the views of Coral Bay, the East End and beyond are still beautiful. The boats are back in the harbor and nearly all have been removed from the rocks. And when you speak to the people living and working in Coral Bay, they are happy, smiling, resilient and optimistic. I make it a point to have lunch in Coral Bay several times a week and have truly enjoyed watching the progress on that side of the island. They all thank you for visiting. And they truly mean it. Coral Bay is just as special today as it was before the storms. They may be bent, but they are not broken.

So now we are down in Coral Bay. The famous Coral Bay sign was heavily damaged, but there are plans to rebuild it. (I’ll have more on that this week.) Not many of the advertisements on the sign survived the storms, but News of St. John’s did. That definitely made me smile when I saw that just a few days after Irma hit. You can check it out in the pic at the top of this story. It’s the little things in life, folks. :)

Next up is the ball field. It’s been temporarily converted into a dump. Sure, it’s unsightly but it’s serving a purpose and is very orderly. I’ve been told that it will be restored to a ball field once all of the debris is removed. I’m sure all of the donkey, goat and sheep will be happy when that happens. Speaking of our islands critters, all are doing very well since the storms. I easily see at least 15 donkeys daily while cruising around on my island tours. (Side note: I recently read in one of the real newspapers that the Army Corps is currently deciding what to do with all of the debris. We will keep you all posted on that.)

Across the street is the Moravian Church. It, too, is in sad shape having lost its roof during Irma. I am not certain what its future holds, but I would like to see it restored as I am sure many of you would as well. Random fact: The Manse was constructed in 1750 and the church was originally built in 1782. Pretty amazing if you ask me. And more of a reason to restore it.

I think we will end right here. Our next installment will update you on Indigo and Skinny’s, and from there we will head out to the East End.

Thank you for reading and have a wonderful Monday!

New Restaurant Coming to Cruz Bay

umami building

Hello everyone and happy Saturday! What’s been a loosely kept secret is now official … The Tap & Still is coming to Cruz Bay!

As you may or may not know, UMAMI has been closed since the storms. About a month or so back, the owners sold all the equipment and furnishings signaling that it would not reopen. I have to admit, that made me so sad because I absolutely loved UMAMI and its owners. Since then, we’re heard several rumors about what was going in that spot, and yesterday we received confirmation straight from the new owners.

The Tap & Still, the popular burger place over in Red Hook and Havensight, plans to open up in Cruz Bay this June. They put up a sign yesterday alerting the island of their plans.

tap n still

“We are trilled to announce the The Tap & Still will be coming soon to downtown Cruz Bay,” owner Hooman Pedram told us. “We’ll be bringing the same food at the same prices that our customers have come to love at our two St. Thomas locations. Look for our grand opening in June 2018.”

The Tap & Still is the second St. Thomas restaurant to set up shop here on St. John. Greengo’s, which has locations in St. Thomas and San Juan, opened up at Mongoose earlier this year.

We’ll keep you all posted on this. In the meantime, have a great weekend everyone!

VI National Park Looking for Volunteers

vi park sign march 5 2018

Hello everyone and happy Friday! We receive so many emails here at News of St. John asking how you can volunteer and help out with the clean up efforts during your vacation. Well, the Virgin Islands National Park would love your help!

Friends of Virgin Islands National Park is looking for volunteers to help clear ruins, trails, and vistas. As you probably know, all of the trails have been cleared to become passable following the storms, but now Friends of Virgin Islands National Park is doing its best to bring the trails back to the beautiful condition they were in before the hurricanes. Volunteers meet every Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. at the maintenance area, which is located next to Mongoose Junction. The day usually ends at 2 p.m.

If you are interested, you are asked to wear closed toe shoes. You are also asked to bring your own water and such. Tools, gloves, ice water and transportation will be provided.

Please email for more information. Thanks everyone!!

House Committee Approves Caneel Bill

caneel dock dec 2017

Well this doesn’t make me happy. But there is still a long way to go before this Bill becomes law. And before I share all the details, I would like to remind everyone that this is a blog, not a newspaper. So I am allowed to say that I think this Bill is garbage, and I will continue to do so. Heck, I can write about my dog all day if I’d like. And somedays I’d love to because he’s so darn cute! But ok, back to the news…

Because my days as a real political reporter are over, I’m going to let my new friend Kurt Repanshek, who writes the National Parks Traveler, fill you in on all the latest details. Here is what he posted earlier today…

House Committee Approves Legislation Supporting Caneel Bay Resort

By Kurt Repanshek on March 7th, 2018

Legislation to allow a private equity firm to continue to run the Caneel Bay Resort at Virgin Islands National Parkfor 60 years passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday, but without language that would have required the company to ensure its activities were “consistent with all applicable laws and policies of the National Park Service.’’

U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican who chairs the committee, said time was of the essence in extending the “Retained Use Estate,” a rental agreement unique not only to Caneel Bay Resort but apparently to the entire National Park Service.

The language in the RUE, which the late Laurance S. Rockefeller drafted and put into effect in 1983 after he donated some 5,000 acres to the government to create Virgin Islands National Park, allowed for the resort to be run as a private operation for 40 years. But in 2023, according to Mr. Rockefeller’s document, the resort was to be turned over to the National Park Service.

Congress told the Park Service in 2010 to weigh whether it was better to transition the operation to a concessions arrangement rather than an RUE, and in 2013 the agency issued a draft environmental assessment that called for such a transition. That EA was never finalized, as the Park Service was trying to negotiate a lease with CBI Acquisitions, Inc., which managed the resort for Stoneleigh Capital, a private equity firm that assumed the RUE in 2004. Those negotiations have never been finalized, for reasons Park Service personnel have been unable to explain.

Under CBI’s management, the resort, with room rates starting around $600 a night, has brought an estimated $65 million a year to St. John and employed about 500, according to Congresswoman Stacy Plaskett, D-Virgin Islands, who in December introduced legislation to have the RUE extended 60 years so CBI could raise the money needed to rebuild the resort, which was battered last fall by hurricanes Irma and Maria.

During a hearing last week by the House Federal Lands Subcommittee, Gary D. Engle, Stoneleigh’s CEO, said CBI needed a long-term commitment to make rebuilding the resort feasible.

On Wednesday, Rep. Bishop agreed.

“The devastating hurricane destroyed the building. So if they’re going to rebuild it, they have to know they’re going to be able to be there for a long period of time,” he said, alluding to the upcoming expiration of the RUE in 2023. “Five years is not going to do it. This resort is important. Not only to the Park Service, but it’s extremely important to the Virgin Islands and to rebuild their economy. This is a significant issue and it should not be held up in any particular way.”

Congressman Bishop did amend the bill to have the rental fee determined by a fair market appraisal rather than just the 1.2 percent Rep. Plaskett sought.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, the ranking Democrat on the committee, tried to have the bill amended to give the Park Service authority to ensure that any construction or management activites at the resort or the 170 acres it sets on “are consistent with all applicable laws and policies of the National Park Service.’’

In compiling the EA in 2013, Park Service staff voiced various concerns over continuing to operate the resort under the RUE, in part because it didn’t prevent resort expansion.

“(T)here is a risk of damaging resources at the resort since NPS would not be involved in the management of the resort before the expiration of the RUE. The RUE owner could undertake construction or other actions that may result in resource damage or loss,” the EA said, pointing to both archaeological and natural resources on the land.

Rep. Grijalva told the committee Wednesday that as written the bill “lacks some necessary provisions making it potentially unworkable and unlikely to be enacted by Congress.”

The effect of the RUE “is that a significant part of the national park, which is owned by all Americans, is open to only the very wealthiest visitors in the world,” he said.

Additionally, Mr. Grijalva pointed out, the Park Service “was eventually supposed to own the resort as well. (It) has little or no ability to ensure the resort is operated consistent with the laws and policies governing all other national parks. In addition, the RUE allows a single private owner to enjoy a monopoly on revenue from the resort and to avoid any competition with other possible management entities that might be better positioned to provide the best services to visitors. HR 4731 simply extends the status quo, using the storm damage as a justification for failing to reexamine the RUE.”

But Rep. Bishop spoke against Rep. Grijlava’s amendment, saying that language was too vague and gave the Interior secretary too much leeway to manage activities on the property. By voice votes the committee, which is controlled by the GOP, voted in favor of Congressman Bishop’s amendment and rejected Rep. Grijalva’s.

Not addressed by the full committee Wednesday was how much insurance coverage it had both for storm damage to the resort as well as for “interruption of business,” and why CBI needed to raise $100 million.

We will keep you posted on this folks.

On the Market: Another Price Reduction; Bring Offers


We told you about today’s listing just over a month ago. Well since then, they sellers have reduced the list price and are extremely motivated to sell this property. They are considering any and all offers. Please check it out…

Recently listed for sale are two masonry, hurricane-damaged homes that have five bedrooms and 5.5 bathrooms total. These homes, located just minutes from Cruz Bay, have spectacular sunsets over town and out to Pillsbury Sound and St. Thomas.

view damaged roof

blue roofs

home damaged

The home is located on a private, end of the road spot, and is within walking distance to the restaurants, shops, beaches and ferry dock in Cruz Bay.

Once repairs have been completed, you can use the main house and guest house as short term rentals, or live in one while renting the other. This property features separate entrances and pathways that connect the two homes. It also has two separate parking areas.

This property is now being offered listed for $849,000 and is being sold as is/where is with all faults and defects. For more information, please contact John McCann of 340 Real Estate Co. at for more information.


Six Months Later


It’s hard to believe that today marks six months since Hurricane Irma ripped through our island and changed our world forever. A lot has happened here over the past six months; A lot of good has happened here over the past six months. Karen Granitz, the owner of Oasis in Coral Bay, said something to me last October that really struck me. “Even on our darkest days,” she said, “we are still the most beautiful place in the world.” And you know what, those words could not be truer, both in the beauty of this island, the beauty of its people, and the beauty of all of those who came to our aid.

Over the past few days, I’ve spoken with a lot of people who’ve been reflecting on the past six months. All have admitted that we’ve had some trying times, but many have also stated that the past six months have been filled with hope, happiness and a renewed faith in humanity. A lot of that is a credit to all of you. We felt your love from near and far. Thank you for that.

If you said back on September 7th that this island would be buzzing six months later, I’m not sure everyone would have believed you. I never doubted that the island would come back, that the people would come back, but I’m not sure anyone expected it to happen as quickly and in the manner in which is has. The progress that has happened over the past six months is remarkable. That is a credit to the people who live here, to those of you who supported us from afar, to the amazing organizations and nonprofits here on island, and to those in the States who came to our aid. Again, thank you.

The island is as stunning today as it was on September 5th in my opinion. Our beaches are busy once again. Our restaurants are full. Our charters boats are packed. Our villas and condos are hopping. Sure we’re not where we were one year ago, but progress is being made each and every day. It’s really amazing to see. Here are a few pics we’ve recently taken that show the sheer beauty and resilience of this island:

Cruz Bay

Cruz Bay

Virgin Islands National Park

Virgin Islands National Park

North Shore Road

North Shore Road

Peace Hill

Peace Hill

Caneel Bay and beyond

Caneel Bay and beyond

Trunk Bay

Trunk Bay

Coral Bay

Coral Bay



East End

East End

Gorgeous, right?

Sure we have work to do, and no, we are not perfect. But we’re getting there day by day.

So as you can see, big things have been happening here on island over the past six months. Oh and we have one more big thing to tell you all. News of St. John is expanding this summer…

baby news

That’s right, we’re having a hurricane baby! How exciting is that??!! So again, a lot of good has happened over the past six months.

Again, I wanted to say thank you to all of you who love St. John, to all of you who have supported us over the past six months, to all of you who have visited us and to all of you with trips planned. We would not be here today without all of you and for that I am forever grateful.

Have a wonderful Tuesday everyone. :)