National Park Service Opens Caneel Bay Lease to Competitive Bids

National Park Service Opens Caneel Bay Lease to Competitive Bids

That’s right.  If you have been following along for the past few years, you know this is BIG NEWS on the Caneel Bay Resort front.  It may still be some time before we are enjoying Caneel Bay once again, but this move is a huge step in the right direction, and fueled by community input!  Yesterday the National Park Service released the following statement.

The National Park Service (NPS) today announced its decision to employ a competitive lease strategy to redevelop Caneel Bay at Virgin Islands National Park. The NPS aims to solicit qualified applicants for the long-term partnership needed to successfully manage hotel accommodations at Caneel Bay while protecting natural and cultural resources.

Ok, so why is this big news?  Well, basically (hopefully), it means that NPS has been listening to the community feedback following the release of the environmental reports last month.  The island community on St. John pleaded with the Park Service via several virtual meetings (hosted by NPS at request of the community) and online comment submissions over the past few months in regards to inclusion of Virgin Islanders in the future of Caneel.  The 45-day public comment period ended just four days ago on July 24.

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Caneel Bay Resort- April 2016

Caneel Bay has always played a vital role in the St. John tourism scene and economy and serves as the perfect venue to represent the heritage and culture of the island, if the next steps into the future are taken with appropriate measures.  This shift away from CBI Acquisitions as sole bidder for the new lease on the property and towards a competitive solicitation of a lessee will allow NPS to further incorporate the community feedback into the process and future plans…Start fresh, if you will?  Namely to properly preserve the land and its cultural artifacts and the possibility to properly represent and support the heritage and culture of St. John in its future development.

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Caneel Bay Aerial Footage Post-Irma – Taken from Facebook September 2017

In November, NPS will launch a new Environmental Assessment “aimed at defining the stewardship, community, operational and other critical guidelines that will factor into the site’s lease development. Public input into the EA will help frame the vision for Caneel Bay.”  (Do I hear cheering?  We all should be cheering!)

The current Retained Use Estate (RUE), crafted by Rockefeller in 1983, will remain in place until its expiration on September 23, 2023 when the NPS resumes full responsibility of the property.  Which means two things…

  1.  NPS will have plenty of time to properly craft the lease agreement and find a great fit for the property.
  2. We will still be waiting several years until the Caneel Bay Resort that we know and love (new and improved of course!) will be functional again.
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Entrance to Caneel Bay, Honeymoon Beach and ZoZo’s

But, it is better that it is done right rather than quickly.  And we should all be excited for the upcoming developments on this favorable decision by NPS, fueled by the passions and desires of the community and visitors of St. John.

The lease agreement will be formulated under the NPS leasing program.  This program “provides a pathway for parks to enter into public-private partnerships to revitalize park properties and make them available for public use. The Caneel Bay competitive lease process will include requests for qualifications and proposals, which are expected to begin rolling out by next summer. At this time, construction is projected to start in late 2024.”

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Caneel Bay Sugarmill Ruins Previous to Irma

17 thoughts on “National Park Service Opens Caneel Bay Lease to Competitive Bids”

  1. THIS IS GREAT NEWS!!!!!!!!! Thank you so much for the update, please continue to send them. This is so wonderful!!!!!!

  2. Sounds like a positive development. At least we know there will be a “Hotel” and the management subject to competition. This time, there should be a provision to require adequate insurance coverage in case of a disaster. Next, I expect CBI to sue over existing property on the site. Also, no mention of the environmental cleanup requirements and time line.

  3. Construction to start in late 2024? By the time this is done it will be 2027 at the earliest. Ten years+ since Irma. Think of all the jobs lost and lives disrupted. And we are cheering? Not me. Absolute shame.

    • For the life of me, I can’t understand comments like this. Many National Parks have lodges and hotels. Rates are established by the market. A night at the Yosemite Valley Lodge is ~$400/night. No one complains that only the 1% can enjoy Yosemite. The Virgin Island NP and surrounding areas have a wide range of accommodations from camping to luxury villas. The north shore beaches and others are among the best in the world. There is enough on the island for everyone to enjoy.

      Envious people tend to feel hostile, resentful, angry and irritable. Envy encourages people to believe that what they lack in comparison to others accounts for their own relative unhappiness. Happiness is all in your own head. Be happy.

  4. A spectacular development for all! My gratitude to all St Johnians and the NPS for moving this important project forward in the most responsible manner.

  5. Very happy to read that the NPS is looking out for the best interest of the land, the natural resources and the inhabitants of Love City. This is a big win for the island and the park.

  6. Fabulous, cheering here.
    It’s always so sad to drive by Caneel recently. To have something positive for this area is wonderful. Yes , it will take a number of years but a positive step forward.

  7. How much needs to be cleaned up? Is it just a small area or a lot? That would take several years and millions of dollars if there is a big area involved. Why have they let the chemicals continue to leach into the soil and water all these years? It will never be cleaned up.

  8. This is indeed good news – thanks to the efforts of islanders and visitors who understood what was happening at Caneel before 2017 and after Irma-Maria. It’s good news that the NPS is going to allow the RUE to expire and require competitive bidding as in every other national park where hotels are allowed to operate. It’s good news that there’s a chance to preserve the cultural and natural resources of Caneel and clean up contamination at the property. Lastly, it’s good news that the public (especially islanders) voiced their concerns and opinion and the NPS listened.

  9. This is good news, I hope the new developer keeps the natural beauty, ambiance, style, and class of the past and does not turn it into the Hyatt. I am interested in their security plan for paying hotel guests if the resort will be open to the public. The last thing Caneel needs is people roaming the beaches offering cheap souvenirs, drugs, and such which happens at many other resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico.

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