Good Morning, Good Morning! A few weeks ago, I posted an update about the future redevelopment of Caneel Bay. Virgin Islands National Park initially scheduled the public comment period, which began on January 18, to close on February 17. They announced this week that they would be extending that public comment period for an additional fifteen days to now close on March 4.
The NPS news release announcing the extension reads as follows and was released on February 8, 2022:
The National Park Service (NPS) today announced the extension of the public comment period on an initial set of concepts that could guide the redevelopment of Caneel Bay at Virgin Islands National Park. The public comment period, which began on Jan. 18, will now be extended for 15 additional days through March 4.
“We are very pleased to be able to offer the public additional time to share their thoughts on the future of Caneel Bay,” said Virgin Islands National Park Superintendent Nigel Fields. “Working together is crucial to creating the best possible future for Caneel Bay. We look forward to continuing to receive the public’s feedback through March 4.”
First, if you haven’t read the initial article, or reviewed the available resources prior to this post, please read the following before proceeding:
- Redevelopment of Caneel Bay – Civic Engagement Newsletter – NPS.gov – Review the documents list at the bottom as well!
- Overview of Caneel Redevelopment Plan – News of St. John
- Friends of Virgin Islands National Park Position on Redevelopment of Caneel Bay – January 27, 2022
Ok…All caught up? Great! Since the last post, there have been some amazing additional resources released by NPS in regards to information as it relates to Caneel Bay. A Power Point Presentation and the complete fifteen page newsletter are both available for download through the NPS link above. There is a ton of information in regards to this very complex and controversial topic so, please read up before submitting a comment if you are choosing to do so.
Something to also keep in mind is this…The overarching feelings of the local community (as I have heard and seen) is ACCESSIBILITY. Caneel Bay, as it was prior to 2017, was not that. Access to the beaches and the grounds AND the areas of cultural and historical importance were not accessible to the local community. And, while I agree that the last thing we want is for Caneel Bay to be overrun by every visitor on island, I think it is important to remember in your comments the significance of these grounds to the generational St. Johnians and Virgin Islanders as a whole.
I’m going to dive in, for a moment, to the flood of comments we received on the last article. First and foremost, THANK YOU. This is, as I mentioned, a VERY controversial topic and there are many opinions and feelings involved in the future of this property. The majority of you posted very well thought out and incredibly well-spoken thoughts about this issue and I was blown away by some of the insights.
Secondly, there were several pieces of information that I believe were overlooked or misunderstood in the context of the last article. For starters, the redevelopment of Caneel Bay is NOT going to happen overnight. The Retained Use Estate (RUE) does not expire until September of 2023. The following timeline is from the NPS Power Point and implies that construction on the property (IF an Action alternative is selected) will not begin until AT LEAST Winter of 2024.
Also, MANY of you thought that Hawksnest Beach, as mentioned in the Alternative A option as a site for mid-range accommodations, is the public beach on North Shore Road that we all know and love. This is not the case. Hawksnest Bay is the body of water between Caneel Bay and Peace Hill and there is ALSO a Hawksnest Beach on the Caneel Bay property! If you are sitting on the public Hawksnest Beach and you look toward the Caneel Bay peninsula, you’ll see a beach facing the bay. THAT is the Hawksnest Beach in question as it pertains to Alternative A.
I hope, as you gather your comments for submission, that you will take in as much of the information available that you can. Trust me…I know, it’s A LOT! But, if you are choosing to submit a comment to NPS in regards to these plans, please keep in mind the interests outside of your own. The community and the environment of St. John depends on a smart decision to be made here that benefits the greater good.