Park Friends warn of Maho threat

A wealthy New York Maho_bay_vistacouple is trying to create a "think tank" on 441 acres of land at Estate Maho Bay.  The president of the Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park is angrily fighting.

The land stretches from Maho Bay Beach to Centerline Road, Mamey peak and Ajax peak, the Friends’ president, Joe Kessler, wrote in his organization’s Fall 2005 newsletter.  Kessler said the potential buyers are in "secret negotiations" with heirs of the land’s original owners and are, at the same time, trying to force the National Park Service to sell its share of the property in return for the designation of 80 acres as a conservation area.  Kessler said the developer is also planning to divert North Shore Road in such a way as to make Maho Bay beach access more difficult and to build a private dock at Maho.

The developers were identified as James and Marilyn Simons.  A Google search  identified a Dr. James Simons, a successful hedge fund investor, who with his wife, Marilyn, has donated more than $15 million (corrected 10/1/05) for research into autism.  They are also sponsors of the Simons Foundation which has many charitable interests including a network of hospital and community projects in Nepal named in memory of their son.

Kessler said the development plans include 44 acres for the think tank (now called Maho Bay Institute) in the lowlands near the beach, 42 acres for the heirs’ residential sites and 89 acres for the family compound and (presumably) other residential sites. "Any prospect of developing this spectacular area within the Park is extremely distressing as it will destroy the integrity of the Park," Kessler warned. "These demands … by the developer will have extreme, long-term detrimental impact on the Park."  The Friends have more information on the web.

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5 thoughts on “Park Friends warn of Maho threat”

  1. My husband and I first visited St. John 16 years ago & fell in love with its lack of development and abundance of natural beauty. We’ve noticed development creeping in over the years, and it’s getting to the point where the island we love is becoming a memory. Guess we’ll have to find a new untouched island soon. It’s so very sad. – Susan

  2. As a handicapped person, Maho Bay Beach is one of the few beaches I can access easily. Please don’t let some rich people with too much money to throw around take over this area and ruin the pristine beauty of our gorgeuos island paradise.

  3. I hope everyone there does all they can to fight the development. St. John would surely lose it’s appeal with that much carved out of the park land, and what the government may gain in tax revenue it would lose in tourism. The pending legislation to develop some stateside national parks could also impact you. Next thing you know they’ll want to do offshore drilling down your way.

  4. “Marilyn, has donated more than $15 for research into autism.”
    Darn a whole fifteen dollars, that will go a long way!!!

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