St. John Doesn’t Get Top Island Spot…

trunk bay overlook

St. John is usually at the top of many “Best of” lists. Well today, we’re going to mix it up a bit … we only made number 5 on Travel and Leisure’s Best Islands in the Caribbean list. What??!! Cue the tears! (haha – kidding of course, folks)

But in all reality, we only made number five. Anguilla actually took the top spot. Here’s what Travel and Leisure had to say:

It’s no fun getting away from it all when you find yourself huddled on a beach with everyone else doing the same. But as these beautiful islands attest, it’s still possible to spend time with your book or your beloved — and not be held hostage to a stranger’s cell phone exchanges.

Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines and more. Readers rated islands according to their activities and sights, natural attractions and beaches, food, friendliness, and overall value.

Some of the choices — such as Anguilla, which won top honors for the first time ever in our survey — offer an intoxicating mix of secluded beaches where you can be the only inhabitant and extraordinary restaurants should you care to break bread with other humans. There are plenty of luxurious hotels to go around, too. On Shoal Bay East, newcomer Zemi Beach House is a breath of fresh air thanks to its sleek, minimalist rooms and its spa set in a Thai home (yes, the building was brought all the way over from Asia). Zemi placed 10th this year in the region’s Resort Hotel category. The Four Seasons recently took over the Viceroy — but Meads Bay, an exquisite stretch of sand from which one can watch migrating whales (while raising a flag for a rum punch) remains unchanged.

Two Puerto Rican destinations also ranked high on the list, as travelers continue to go beyond San Juan and explore the quieter, more rustic isles of Culebra and Vieques. These off-the-beaten-path places keep company with pristine spots like St. John and Virgin Gorda, islands known for their natural attractions: two-thirds of St. John is a protected national park, while Virgin Gorda is home to the famous Baths. The Bahamas — an archipelago of some 700 islands — won three spots in the top 15: the Abacos, Harbour Island, and Exuma, where our readers raved about pigs who act like porpoises. (Who knew that swimming with pigs was possible, let alone so much fun?) And Bermuda, of course, takes its proper seat on the list for its pink sand, sophistication, and proximity to the United States.

All of these honored islands have their individual appeal, but they do share the most coveted qualities: breathtaking landscapes where the din of civilization — and other people’s cell phone calls — seem a world away.

Virgin Gorda was named the fourth best; Vieques took third; Culebra was named the second best, while Anguilla took the top spot.

Click here to se the full list. 

Wanted: Couple to Live on St. John

little lameshur

Update: This position has been filled as of July 17, 2017.

How is this for a dream job?? VIERS – the Virgin islands Environmental Research Station – an eco camp located out near Lameshur bays, is looking for caretakers to look over its property this fall. Here are all of the details straight from its manager…

I am looking for a retirement-aged couple who would be interested in being a caretaker for VIERS during August and September. At least one individual in the couple needs to have basic maintenance skills (i.e., is comfortable fixing leaks, making small repairs, turning on a generator, etc), although a “handy” caretaker is strongly preferred. The idea would be that I would train the couple for a period of time and then leave VIERS in their hands during the month of September. September is dead season, so they would not have the responsibility of tending to guests. The main duties would include maintenance/upkeep projects and cleaning. Some tasks will be specific to the caretaker’s talents (for example, sewing curtains should one or both individuals know how).

If you are or know a couple who would love to live at a Caribbean field station in the National Park, less than a mile from multiple beaches and trails, HAS A STRONG WORK ETHIC and enjoys the kind of work this would require, please contact at (contact info removed after position filled). Calling is best. Thanks! -Whitney

Sounds pretty intriguing doesn’t it?

To learn more about VIERS, you can visit its website at www.viers.org

Please Help Us Raise Money to Bring Wounded Vets to St. John

kayak race
If you’re an avid News of St. John reader (and a huge thank you to those of you who are), you probably know that each November a group of wounded veterans spend the week on St. John. During their stay here, they are treated like royalty by local businesses who donate a slew of services and meals, and they simply relax on our beautiful beaches. It’s an awesome opportunity for the island and one of my favorite weeks of the year.

Well it obviously costs money to get these veterans here. So today, we’re asking all of you to help us raise some funds for this great cause. (And please let me point out that this has zero affiliation with the Wounded Warriors program; it’s actually a Team River Runner program.)

Each summer, St. John holds a race called the Chaotic Kayak race. The purpose of this event is to raise the funds needed to get these incredible men and women down here for a well-deserved week of rest and relaxation. This is where I am personally asking for your help.

This year’s race happens on July 23rd at Maho, and we’re trying to raise some funds prior to the event. This is where you all come in…

Thousands of people read this site every day. Again, a huge thank you for that. If every one of you donated $5 or even $1, we could raise a decent amount of cash. So that’s what I am asking you all to do today, if possible. Please donate to the News of St. John team. Please click here if you would like to donate to the News of St. John team and help with the costs of getting these wounded veterans to our island this November.

Our team will receive a five second head start for every $100 we raise. And we need all the help we can get!! :)

All donations are tax deductible. You will be emailed a receipt immediately after donating.

For those of you not familiar with the Chaotic Kayak race, it’s a wildly entertaining event in which teams from local businesses compete in a zany kayak race. It’s not your ordinary kayak race. Teams are armed with water guns and do their best to not only beat the other teams, but soak them in the process. It’s super fun and a great event. Participating teams raise money in an effort to get a head start during the race, and all of the money raised is donated to Team River Runner, the organization that brings these wounded veterans to St. John each November.

So again, this year’s race will be held on Sunday, July 23rd at Maho. The race begins at noon. The public is welcome and invited to cheer along their favorite team. Food and drinks will be available.

Thanks everyone! Have a great week!

Huge Parcel Across From Maho Lists For Sale – Zoned Commercial

maho bay

For the past month or so, we’ve been keeping an eye on a property located across the street from Maho Bay, on the western end of the beach where the pavilion stands. It was recently cleared and a small, somewhat dilapidated house is now visible from the roadway. Well when we drove by Maho during one of our News of St. John Tours Thursday morning, we were pretty stunned to see a for sale sign out front. Here are the details straight from its listing:

Almost beach!!! Commercially (W-1) zoned. Fronts Maho Bay Road, 50+/- feet from Maho Bay beach. Fantastic large parcel can be subdivided into substantial homesites with Maho Bay views and common access to Maho Bay Road. This stunning pice of paradise offers endless opportunities. Surrounded by VI National Park, the privacy and serenity are in place forever.(SEE DOCUMENTS FOR SKETCH OF POSSIBLE SUBDIVISION)

The parcel is just over six-and-a-half acres and is listed for $8,000,000. This map shows exactly where the parcel is:

maho for sale map view

I have to say, this doesn’t make me smile. The thought of putting a subdivision in that spot is heartbreaking. Or even worse, a commercial development, which is very possible as it is already zoned commercial. And that’s a selling point according to the listing realtor. Check out this post he recently put on his Facebook page:

realtor facebook post

And here are the plans for the proposed subdivision included with the listing. Check it out:

maho proposed subdivision

We can only hope that someone steps in and secures this parcel in the same way that John Stryker, a philanthropist and conservationist, saved the former Maho Bay Camps property back in 2012. Mr. Stryker also donated money earlier this year to help purchase another property that will be donated to the Virgin Islands National Park. Kudos to you, Mr. Stryker. We can’t say that enough.

We will keep you all posted on this…

An Update on the Proposed Megayacht Marina in Coral Bay

coral bay heart

It’s been several months since we’ve written about the Summer’s End Group’s proposed megayacht marina out in Coral Bay, so today we’d like to give you a little update. Here’s a lot of information that was recently posted on Save Coral Bay’s Facebook page:

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted an update on the Coral Bay marina projects. The main reason for this is that very little has happened worth talking about. But over the past few months several things have taken place, and I wanted to keep everyone apprised of the current status.

You may recall that last February we sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers, signed by over 3,500 lovers of Coral Bay, requesting that the Corps deny the permit applied for by the Summer’s End Group (SEG). We laid out the reasoning, including the fact that 16 months has transpired since the Corps required SEG to respond to over a hundred major concerns about their project. The Corps had placed the permit application “in abeyance” and requested a response from SEG within one year.

It has now been over 20 months and, as of last week, SEG had not returned responses to ANY of the issues identified by the Corps. These issues included concerns expressed by federal agencies (NOAA, NMFS, FWS, EPA, NPS), issues expressed by the general public, issues identified by Save Coral Bay and CBCC, and specific concerns of the Army Corps.

The response from the Corps to our February letter was very much a “by the book” answer. The Corps wrote back saying that because SEG had not responded to the issues and concerns, the Corps lacked the information required to take action on the permit. This meant they could neither approve nor deny the permit and so it remained in abeyance. So, basically, the Corps said that they could not and would not do anything. This is very typical – they would rather not take an action (which could be appealed) and prefer to do nothing.

For a good part of the 20 elapsed months we do not believe that SEG was doing much of anything to advance their project, however the principals (Chaliese Summers and Rick Barksdale) were on St John for much of that time. Last March the SEG environmental consultant (Amy Dempsey) wrote to the Corps saying that “SEG was resuming work on the project” and would have answers to all of the issues within 60 days. That time came and passed without anything being submitted.

We now know that SEG has requested a meeting with the Corps, has met with the National Park Service, and is apparently working on a slightly modified plan for their mega yacht marina. We have not yet seen the plan – but if it exists, we will obtain a copy. And if the multitude of issues identified in the first set of comments still remain, as I strongly suspect they will, then we will respond accordingly.

Just to refresh your memory, the original plans submitted by SEG in 2014, and eventually approved by two members of the St John Coastal Zone Management Committee, are now the subject of an ongoing lawsuit in Virgin Islands Superior Court. The Board of Land Use Appeals (BLUA) required significant modifications to the permits, and the court will be reviewing the actions taken by CZM, which we believe were in violation of VI code. So, at the local level, SEG has no permits and has a lengthy process in front of them to even try to obtain permits. We believe, at a minimum, they need to go back to CZM with a new application conforming to the requirements of BLUA (a combined land/water application), with a new design (omitting the parcels of the Voyages building), avoiding the historic artifacts identified in the marina footprint, new environmental analysis given the changes to the upland storm water management plans, and basically start over.

At the federal level, if SEG submits responses to the issues identified by the Army Corps, then we will review those responses and submit the appropriate form of reply to the Corps. Given the extended period of time which has elapsed, the change in local site conditions, and overall improvements in water quality in Coral Bay Harbor, we strongly believe that SEG should be required to file a new application with the Corps, a new application to DPNR/CZM, and give the public and agencies an opportunity to comment.

So, in a nutshell, that’s where we are. If we need your help writing letters, reviewing applications, signing petitions, or supporting our legal campaign, we’ll let you know. 

P.S. – I said I would update you on the marinas (plural). There’s nothing to report on the Sirius project. They’ve submitted nothing new to the Corps, and to the best of our knowledge they do not have a complete application with DPNR/CZM.

SAVE CORAL BAY – for future generations

St. John On HGTV Tonight

Dave and Julie

Back in November, we told you how our friends Dave and Julie were filming an episode of House Hunters International, the HGTV program that loves to feature our amazing little island. Well that episode premiers tonight and we hope you all watch it!

Here are the official details straight from HGTV:

Nine years after vacationing on St. John, where home prices run into the millions of dollars, Julie and David have finally saved enough to make the move there from Colorado. David wants a home with an open-air, Caribbean design, while Julie prefers a modern, contemporary home.

The episode airs at 10:30 p.m. EST and will re-air tomorrow at 1:30 a.m. EST.