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.
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.
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…
- NPS will have plenty of time to properly craft the lease agreement and find a great fit for the property.
- 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.
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.”