Read this if you love St. John

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A few months ago, word on island was that a writer from Conde Nast Traveler was working on a story about St. John. Some folks worried the result would be a piece about how crime has increased in the past few years, as it has in many places.

The story’s out now and that’s not its focus. It is a very thoughtful essay about the island, what’s made it a respite and even refuge for many, and the effects of all the new condo and villa construction.

"We thought we had discovered an island unknown to tourists," Joanne says. "Now it’s being overpopulated. It’s not our oasis anymore. We’ll try to find someplace more secluded next trip. Maybe the other side." Read the full article: http://www.concierge.com/cntraveler/articles/detail?articleId=11507&pageNumber=1

12 thoughts on “Read this if you love St. John”

  1. Great article, thanks Frank for sharing. I remember a thread/poll a while back about a building moratorium – too bad that’s not been enacted. Need to do something soon before the island and reefs are completely destroyed. We need to send pleas to Oprah and/or Kenny!! Save the Island campaign! Maybe I’ll shoot them an email !! HA! 🙂

  2. Having spent most of my youth and early 20’s in the V.I., I will always consider it home.
    Yet, I find myself drawn more to the simplicity, tranquility, and hospitality of places like Exuma and the Abacos when vacationing.
    Richard N Kurpiers

  3. Richard, I have to agree with you in regards to simplicity and tranquility as we recently visited Eleuthera and will definitely return. I love St. John but decided to take a break from the island thinking they’ll finish construction by next year and we can return to the peacefulness. The article is a disheartening way to learn that the island’s building boom of monstrous mansions continues. That being said, it is also comforting to read there are wonderful locals who still see the importance in preserving the island over the all mighty dollar.
    I have to compliment DPNR in their efforts to turn Cruz Bay back into a swimming beach. The St. John webcam is set as one of on my favorites on my desktop at work and when things get a little crazy, I take a mental vacation and gaze out over Cruz Bay. Now the view is so much more inviting since the bay isn’t so peppered with boats.
    Referencing the article, is St. John no longer two thirds national park?

  4. Does anyone out there realize that the whole world has changed? You can’t have your cake and eat it too. In 1975, we didn’t even have a source of fresh milk and meat, and you certainly couldn’t buy fresh vegetables because no one was growing them (they came in a on a boat from Puerto Rico) We had minimal tourism, and it was a struggle to make the yankee dollar bill. Our kids did not have too many choices on where to go to school and the schools were in poor condition (that hasn’t changed much!).
    Sure, I would give up what I have today in the way of wealth and things to go back to a simpler life that we led back then (we didn’t have TV or a phone), but that is not possible. And half the world is in the same predicament. Either you don’t have enough tourism and the people can’t make a living, or you get discovered and then it is too crowded.
    Some of us here are trying to hold the line, but greed and ambition have too many on their side.
    We all hate to say it, but another hurricane would help level the playing field, but I never really wish for that. You just try to go with whatever flow there is, and choose your battles. You win some, you lose some

  5. St. John still is, and always will be, a very special place to me. Has it changed since I first visited it in the late ’80’s/early 90’s? Yes–in some ways for the better, other ways for the worse.
    The preservation role that the National Park & Trust for Public Land play is critical. That’s the part that remains the same. Unlike the article’s writer, I was snorkeling among schools and schools of fish (blue tang, fingerlinks, yellowjack, etc) a few days ago. The schools of fish are more dependent upon the season (& water temperature/weather/atmospheric pressure/currents etc) than upon the health of the coral it seems.
    Has the coral degenerated? Yes, so sadly, but does it keep valiantly trying to make a comeback? Yes, everyplace & always. It actually inspires me to do the same when I get discouraged!
    Are visitors expectations different today than they were 20 years ago? Yes, yes yes! We thought we had discovered paradise, partly because there were no tvs, telephones, or a/c anyplace you stayed. Now, owning a rental villa many years later, I constantly am asked by potential guests whether the whole place has a/c (obviously they’re not interested in experiencing the tropical breezes/scents & sounds), and wifi (they simply can NOT part from their computers) and they specify the exact cable stations that they simply MUST have!

  6. I agree with Lonnie, you can’t pick and choose all of the elements associated with progress.
    What we can encourage though through places like the USVI on line BB and other communication with folks that are new to STJ is a committment to support local businesses, to be concious of their footprint on island (care for coral and not leaving trash), and a commitment to uphold what STJ is all about. If everyone takes a little responsibility, then the entire burden doesn’t fall on one persons shoulders and changes can be managed for the best.
    That being said, I am looking forward to our eighth visit to STJ in 10 years December 1, 2007. I am a little anxious to see what’s changed over the past 18 months (since we were last there) but I’m sure I will cope. Soon come!

  7. Oh Dear Lonnie, please do not take offense to my comments. Yes, change is everywhere and for many of us mainlanders who live in cities where change is constant and construction is year round – St. John is our respite from that world. I certainly can appreciate how you welcome the growth for the benefits that come with it to better the locals’ lives. When I first experienced St. John it was the closest to Heaven I could imagine while being down on this earth. I live for my time off when my girls and I can run from it all and do nothing but spend time together in simplicity and tranquility. It’s my selfish way to make up time the long hours of work have stolen from me and create new memories to carry me through until we can spend such time together again. If I may speak on behalf of us that visit, the reason why it is so disheartening to read of substantial changes is because we fell in love with your “Virgin Island”.

  8. Nobody is against progress! Yes, all of us out here realize the whole world has changed. Most people are just for common sense. Planning and abiding by local building codes to insure new building structures fit into the St. John style and landscape. Not ugly monster concrete structures that block neighbors views and are higher than the local fire dept. says they can safely accommodate.
    Tourists for decades have come to St. John because their home is where they already have two-story cement parking garages, but no Nature’s Nook, where they have strip malls with sad, depressing bars, but no local Shiela’s Pot, Patrick’s or Mooie’s with real people hanging out. They also have too much traffic, smog, diesel fumes, congestion, crime and they are already asking, “What’s happening here?”
    If you don’t want the bottom to fall out of the tourist market, you have to also provide what the tourists come here for — a fantasy idea of an island vacation, the illusion of being somewhere different than from back home.
    Once you lose the precious treasure of what was our island AND the culture, it is impossible to go back! and the tourist will be looking elsewhere for their fantasy island.

  9. Thanks for sharing with us. We came in the 90’s for our first trip and in 05 started to see the building. We are returning again next year and are begining to wonder what St. John will look like from what we have been reading over the last year on this and other websites. I read one person say something of the people like Kenny/Oprah should be approached for help. I believe I read in the Friends of the Virgin Islands newletter that Kenny has been making some donations to some projects. All I know is as long as the park is there we will be coming back again and again.

  10. Certainly change is to be expected, and as a resident, for over twenty five years, I have observed many changes. It is the current type of change that is disheartening.
    In the vast majority, it is a different breed of people who come to St. John today. Those who vacationed years ago had the same dreams as those of today. They sought to find that unspoiled island, to get away from their every day chaotic lives. Those who took the plunge and became residents, or invested as snow birds, did so with minimal effect to the island. With or without wealth, they built small houses, blended with and became active in the community.
    People today arrive, with the same dreams, than immediately want to change the unspoild to the life they sought to escape. They build McMansions, visit a couple weeks a year, can find their way to the beaches and restaurants, but know nothing of, nor are they interested in, the culture, politics or community. They add little more to the island than do the cruise ship visitors.
    Welcome to those who now come and are willing to actually live the life of their dreams. To those who come merely to exploit, show off their wealth, impress their friends, and take up a parking space, please continue your chaotic existance at home. Do not bring it to St. John.

  11. Thanks for sharing the article, Frank. I first visited St. John approximately 30 years ago and obviously things have changed a lot since then—some good, some bad (the food in St. John was pretty miserable on our first trip, so not ALL the change has been bad). It always bothers me to see American tourists and visitors, both in St. John and other places, that are disrespectful of the local culture. Having said that, its unlikely that St. John can cause a “sea change” in the attitudes of American tourists. What St. Johnians CAN do is enact something that is in their best long-term intersts— stricter zoning laws and development restrictions. Grande Bay and Sirenusa were mistakes, in my opinion, and cannot be reversed. But hopefully St. John can learn from this, and from similar mistakes that were made in St. Thomas, and from those mistakes that are being made in Provo right now. St. John will never again look like it did in the 1970’s, but it doesn’t have to look like Grand Cayman either if local officials got more serious about density restrictions, architectural requirements, and height limitations, among other things. These actions will preserve the long-term viability of St. John as a prime tourist destination.

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