If you look for Caneel Bay Resort in the news, there unfortunately isn’t much in the way of updates as to the future of the beloved St. John resort. But, one man continues his diligent search for information on ongoing policies, politics and processes that may eventually decide the fate of the establishment that was once one of the largest employers in Love City.
In this first part of two Caneel Bay updates this week, we will give you some background on what has been going on with the property as reported by National Parks Traveler.
Last Thursday we shared a pretty cool picture over on our Facebook page. The picture (above) showed the North Shore Road in 1948.
According to the St. John Historical Society, “the picture was taken by Ronald Morrisette, and the women on horseback are his wife, Sarah Morrisette, left, and Helen Auble (Ms. Auble, a St Thomas resident for many years, gave the picture to [Island Resources Foundation] before her death in the late 1990s). The road is near the bottom of Hawksnest hill, in the distance is the Oppenheimer end of Gibney beach, then called Hawksnest beach. They were passing through the eastern side of the Caneel Bay property, which then stretched from the Creek in Cruz Bay to include the present National Park Hawksnest Beach.”
We found the picture to be so interesting that we sought out to find a few more that we could share all of you. We’d like to extend our thanks to David Whitney Knight, Sr. and Eleanor Gibney for sharing the following pictures with us.
Courtesy of David Whitney Knight, Sr.:
How many of you recognize the pristine beach shown in this picture? According to David Whitney Knight, Sr., it was taken c1949-1950. “The lady in the picture is my mother, Anna, with her dog Spooky; the photographer is my father, Dr. George H H Knight.”
The following images are courtesy of Eleanor Gibney. The descriptions are courtesy of the St. John Historical Society.
“A locally-built cargo sloop lowers sail and prepares to come alongside the Cruz Bay dock, c 1959. Up until the 1970s Caribbean-built cargo vessels such as the “Baby Mac,” “Pride of Tortola” and “Miranda Stout,” were St. John’s primary link to the outside world, carrying everything from fuel oil and livestock to mail and passengers.”
“Caneel Bay, 1959.
One of the original cottages from the late1930s on what is still called “Cottage Point” They were replaced in the early 1960s.”
“The impact of modern development on St. John’s landscape becomes staggeringly apparent when you compare Chocolate Hole today with how it looked in the late 1950s (photographer unknown).”
“The iconic Trunk Bay view–here in a slide by an unknown tourist in 1963. The main building of the former Boulon guesthouse is still very visible on the hill, where it was a popular lunch spot, run by Caneel Bay.”
The Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) issued a Notice of Violation to the Denis Bay property owner accused of altering the area’s landscape and VI National Park land.
DPNR found that property owner Tony Ingrao violated seven provisions of the VI Building Code including excavating and land clearing on National Park land; failure to secure an earth change permit; building without a permit; violating provisions of permits; and excavations affecting adjoining properties.
According to the Notice of Violation, the Division of Building Permits was notified on May 13 that a landslide occurred on a lower section of the roadway adjacent to plot 2B Denis Bay. Prior to the landslide report, the Division had met with the construction project manager to discuss concerns about possible environmental impacts and hazards created by the site. Mitigations efforts were discussed and it was indicated at the time that they would begin as quickly as possible.
Now that the Notice of Violation has been issued, Ingrao will be required to submit plans and a new building permit application for site stabilization, drainage and any associated structure needed to stabilize the affected area. Ingrao must submit any agreement or mitigation approved by the National Park with regard to the impacted areas. Ingrao is required to notify and receive approval for any work conducted on the recently reopened roadway leading to the property, and upon approval, Ingrao has 45 days to make repairs to that roadway. DPNR also fined Ingrao $10,500 which must be paid within 30 days.
Jamal Nielsen, DPNR Media Relations Coordinator, stated Monday that Ingrao has already implemented corrective action measures, although he did not have specific details on what types of measures have been put into place thus far.
Ingrao is a world-renowned interior designer based in New York City. News of St. John reached out to him Monday, but was unsuccessful.
The makers of Air Wick have gone into business with the National Park Foundation.
St. John may benefit.
"Our national parks provide us with the purest scents of nature," said Jerome Lemaire, marketing director for Reckitt Benckiser, the parent company of the air freshener product. "We are thrilled to be partnering with the National Park Foundation to help our customers bring the outdoors in."
Air Wick has released a line of sprays, aerosols, oils and scented candles inspired by four parks including the Virgin Islands, Hawaii, Yellowstone and Glacier Bay.
The VI aroma is described as … "Paradise flowers evoke delightful notes of native Mimosa, Jasmine and White Rose, transporting you to the idyllic tranquility of the Park."
A portion of sales from the products will be donated to the foundation to "directly aid, support and enrich America's nearly 400 national parks and their programs."
Presidio del Mar, a six-bedroom, six-bath villa on St. John’s tony south (earlier we said 'north') shore enclave, Peter Bay, will again be the site for the annual Friends of the Virgin Islands Park gala next February. The multimillion dollar property (It sold for $14 million 14 months ago.) has nine satellite TVs, Viking appliances, air conditioning in all rooms, and is posted on line for rental for $3,300-$7,000 a night.
Joe Kessler, executive officer of the Friends group, mentioned the gala during an appearance at a recent St. John Rotary Club appearance.
He noted the Friends group will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year. Looking ahead, plans are for the Friends to install 14 more moorings in Park waters, in addition to the 250 moorings already in place. These new moorings, however, will be for what Kessler called larger vessels, presumably luxury 100-foot-plus yachts, another sign St. John is attracting more attention. In a comment on this story, the Friends said uh iuh … maximum will be 100-footers. Economy size 🙂
Kessler also said another activity of the Friends has them ‘diving for gold.’ Well, not exactly, but Friends and Park staffers are hunting for stones used as ballast on a ship which went down near Johnson’s Reef.
Oppenheimer Beach, on the north shore, is a ‘Don’t miss!’ spot for visitors. Calm water, an inviting beach, and a gorgeous view are reasons why anybody would like to spend some time there.
But Sunday, the 26th, there’s another reason: There will be live music, beer tents, food from Skinny Legs and Joe’s Rum Hut, raffle prizes and the second annual St. John Chaotic Kayak Race. Money raised by race entries and race sponsors go to support a group of wounded veterans and their spouses who come to St. John for a week in November.
This is a great opportunity for vacationers to enjoy an afternoon in the sun and to get a first-hand sense of how the island comes together for a very good cause.
The race will feature as many as 25 kayak teams, paddling around the Sadie Sea, a charter boat. Captain Tom and Amy Larson, its owners, are they are organizing the Warriors event. It costs nothing to watch.
Other events during the weekend include a pre-party fundraiser at Iguana Grill on Saturday night. High Tide will have a fundraiser before the event, on the Cruz Bay waterfront beach, and Castaways will have an after-party.
Last year's event raised $20,000 for the Wounded Warriors program.
Some of the National Park's most heavily used – and often poorly maintained – hiking trails are getting a lot of attention from eight students and two team leaders this month.
Under the auspices of the Student Conservation Association, four students from St. Croix and four from the mainland are maintaining trails.
"The crew will be clearing vegetation, building and repairing stone steps, repairing damaged drainage ditches, and removing loose rock" according to the Friends of the VI National Park. "The effects of thir work will reduce erosion to trails vulnerable to deterioration due to steep slopes, shallow topsoil, and severe rain."
The students began their work June 18th and will finish July 17th.
At the end of the four weeks, the Park will have between six and eight miles of its most opular trails in safe and environmentally sound condition, the Friends said.
The cost of the SCA program is $37,000. It's being paid by an anonymous donor, according to the St. John Source. The money pays some of the students, the crew leaders and also covers food and training expenses.
According to Gerald Singer, author of the St. John Beach Guide, the Reef Bay hike is one of the 10 best in the Caribbean.
If you want to go on the hike, there's been a change. You now sign up with the island's Friends of the Park, not the National Park Service. You go to the Friends of the Park's store on the first floor at Mongoose Shopping Center and make your reservation. You pay $30. The fee is for transportation from Cruz Bay, by taxi, out to the start of the hike's trail, and the boat ride back along the south shore of the island.
"The problem was that there were a large number of no-shows for the hike," said Joe Kessler, president of the Friends. "There were generally many empty places, depriving folks who wanted top go." Furthermore, charging up front for transportation makes no-shows less likely, he said. "Since the Park was not charging for the tyrip and didn't want the hassle of colecting the money, they asked us tp help. In the end we might make a few bucks in the process."
During the winter, the hike, led by a National Park Ranger, is offered Mondays, Tuesday, Thursdays and Fridays, with the taxi leaving Cruz Bay at 9:30 a.m..
The Reef Bay Hike is a 2.2 mile downhill walk through a shady and moist forest and past four sugar plantations. It is best known for the petropglyphs (rock engravings) carved by Taino Indians. For decades, it has been one of the most popular activities in the Virgin Islands National Park.
Previously reservations for the hike were handled by Park personnel.