New gas station plan progresses

Plans for a new gas station and convenience store on Centerline Road have moved a step closer.  

Even as another station is under construction along the south shore road, across the Westin, a Senate committee hear a request from Guilderoy Sprauve Jr. to permit him to build a three-bay gas station on land now zoned residential.

According to a report of the Committee of the Whole meeting in the Virgin Islands Daily News, the Department of Natural Resources is agreeable to the variance.  

To move further, a Senator needs to back the plan and submit a bill authorizing the change. The station near the Westin is expected to be complete by next February, the Daily News reported.

JetBlue begins flights to VIs

America's (almost) favorite airline is beginning service to the Virgin Islands.

JetBlue outlined plans to open three new routes to the Territory just in time for winter season, an addition of more than 88,000 seats.   The airline will launch flights between Boston Logan International Airport and St. Thomas International Airport. The flights from Logan International Airport will operate for the winter season with five weekly departures beginning December 15, 2011.

Assistant Commissioner of Tourism, Brad Nugent, discusses new service with the airline's CEO, Dave Barger, at a Thursday afternoon press conference.

The Inquiring Iguana has been wishing for Jet Blue service to the islands for almost six years! Here's a post from 2005.

You can book the new flights at jetblue.com now.  And if you can tolerate one or two stops, and go far out of your way, you can book from Washington or other airports and connect to the Boston flight.  Probably only makes sense if you're a big fan of Jet Blue's frequent flier program.

Read moreJetBlue begins flights to VIs

Real estate ‘pro’ wants to entertain offers

From Aspen, Colorado to St. John.  Sounds nice, doesn't it?

And at least one person is trying to 'live the dream' by holding him/herself out for employment on Craigslist.

"Looking to relocate and will be in St. John from July 5-28. Experienced R.E. manager/consultant/broker from Aspen, CO looking for slower pace. Honest, reliable and fun – please let me know if your firm needs a fresh face!"

Nice idea, but the Inquiring Iguana would wager that the last thing the market needs is another real estate salesperson on the island.  Back in the '05 heyday, he remembers there were more than 100 licensed agents. May still be.  But it's a different marketplace now.

US News picks “Best of St. John”

LogoThe U.S. Virgin slands have been selected as one of the “Best Destinations in the USA,” in the first-ever U.S. News and World Report “Best Vacations” rankings. The Top Things To Do in the VIs include four St. John attractions.

U.S. News & World Report is a leading national and international news outlet and we are delighted to be included in this list of rankings,” said Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty. “This recognition underscores the broad appeal of our islands as we continue to ensure that the USVI remains top of mind among visitors.” 

U.S. News & World Report U.S. Virgin Islands Award Rankings:

  • Ranked # 7 in Best Destinations in the USA
  • Ranked # 2 in Best Beaches
  • Ranked # 9 in Best Family Beach Vacations

For the full list of vacation rankings visit http://travel.usnews.com/

Teenagers volunteer to improve Park trails

This is the eleventh summer that Friends of V.I. National Park (Friends) has worked in partnership with Student Conservation Association (SCA) and Virgin Islands National Park to sponsor a student trail crew for four weeks. This year’s crew will arrive on June 15th and work on island through July 14th.

Friends’ SCA Trail Crew Program provides students ages 15-19 with a unique outdoor experience repairing and maintaining hiking trails while living in V.I. National Park. Trail crew members are introduced to a variety of topics including outdoor work, camping and hiking skills, low impact outdoor living, and a basic cultural and ecological knowledge of the island.

This summer’s crew consists of four Virgin Island students; one from St. Thomas and three from St. Croix, and four students and two crew leaders from the continental U.S.

At the request of the park’s maintenance department the crew will be clearing vegetation, building and repairing stone steps, repairing damaged drainage ditches, and removing loose rock on our trails. The effects of their work will reduce erosion to trails vulnerable to deterioration due to steep slopes, shallow topsoil, and severe rain.

At the end of the four-week program, the park will have between 6-8 miles of its most heavily utilized trails in safe and environmentally sound condition, according to Audrey Penn, Friends program manager. "Our National Parks continue to face severe maintenance challenges due to continued federal budget cuts. More and more, (the [ark) relies on volunteer groups, like SCA, to help maintain the natural and cultural resources of the park," she said.

Legal help sought to save Maho Bay

The announcement that time is running out for Maho Bay Camps has galvanized hundreds of the eco-resort's fans.  But so far, none has stepped forward with millions of dollars to buy the property.

Instead, Maho Bay lovers have turned to the Internet and created several groups on Facebook.

One of the organizers posted a mesage saying, "We have a meeting set up for June 15 with a lawyer who specializes in non-profit law and land acquisitions to discuss possible methods of incorporation for a group devoted to our cause."

"We have (also) reached out to Board of the International Ecotourism Society to raise awareness within that community."  There have also been conversations with Maho Bay management, John Garrison (Trust for Public Lands), Joe Kessler (Friends of the Virgin Islands Natl. Park) and Mark Hardgrove (Superintendent of Virgin Islands Natl. Park)

On the Vinow St. John forum Bareboat1 suggested direct action." One simplistic idea is this: If we could find 23,000 people to pitch in $1,000 or 230,000 people to pitch in just $100 each (you get the idea) then we could buy and save Maho Bay Eco Camps." 

Ellen Stahl Parker, on Facebook, wrote, "It just doesn't seem right that no one organization or person with environmental conscience has stepped forward to save Maho."

Forbes cites St. John real estate opportunity

Perelandra, a two bedroom, two bath villa overlooking the Virgin Islands' Cruz Bay, is Exhibit  #1 for Forbes.com's advice, "Buy Now, Retire Later."

The gist of the item is: prices have never been lower, will only go higher. If St. John – or anywhere else – is a part of your retirement plan, now is the time.

"The price was the impetus to buy now," the Gallaghers said. "We realized if we waited, and prices came back up, we wouldn't be able to do it,  So we sold stock and bought.  It felt like paradise." Perelandra's new owners, Linda and Patrick Gallagher, bought the villa for $960,000. Asking price was $1.495 million.

(Update: A commenter on the Forbes story, who said she was the previous owner, said the original asking price for the villa was $1.05 million.)

They plan to continue to offer the villa for short term rental, using it themselves three or four weeks a year. The income will help with taxes, maintenance, and management.

Forbes adds that a housing analyst for Moody's, the credit rating and research company, agrees with their move.  Celia Chen is quoted saying "popular second-home locales … should see the bottom this year – meaning now is the time to start looking."

Lynn Giovanna, an agent with Islandia Real Estate, poiints out the number of home sales this year is ahead of last year's pace, albeit slightly – 12 deals in 2011 vs. 10 in 2010.

"Many of my customers ask if mortgages are available in the Virgin Islands," she wrote on the Islandia blog. "Home mortgages offered by First Liberty mortgage brokers include a 30-year-fixed at around 4.50% and a 15-year-fixed at around 3.75%."

Disclaimer: The owners of The Inquiring Iguana, the "publisher" of this Web site, have listed his home away from home, a two-bedroom, two bath villa, Blue Tang, for sale.  As such, he has an interest in the real estate market.

St. John photographer focuses beyond the island

Bill Stelzer is a St. John photographer with an eye for more than sunsets and sandy beaches.

This month, he's mounted an exhibit of his wok at Bajo el Sol, a top flight gallery in Mongoose Junction.

Stelzer describes it as "a selection of digital artwork painted with light and computer algorithms from photographs around the planet."

A TV newsman in Texas, he moved to St. John almost 20 years ago.  In the mid-90s, he worked at his photography and expanded into video.  He also wrote local newspaper articles, made political ads, and worked with charitable groups like the Friends of the National Park and the Park Service.

He also got involved with Waveplace Foundation, part of the world-wide "One Laptop Per Child project." That took him to Haiti where he taught school children how to use their new devices, which led directly to him returning to there to help with relief efforts after its earthquake last year.

The St. John Source published a profile of Stelzer.

Maho Bay Camps to close

LogoGreenSay it ain't so, Stanley!

Maho Bay Camps is planning to close June 1st of next year.

On the campground's blog, it's explained that, "Our lease will expire July 31st, 2012 as we have not been granted the extension we were all so anxious for."

There had been negotiations for a sale to the Trust For Public Lands, but those talks are said to have faltered and ended.

If the 14-acre north shore property, with nearly 900 feet of ocean front and beach, is not sold by May 1st, it's possible the Camp's lease could renew automatically.  But management is not banking on it. "We will not know until that date if operations can resume."

"I can no longer take bookings one year in advance," Maho's founder Stanley Selengut said in a letter to the St. John Tradewinds. "Reservations are limited to this coming season only."

Read moreMaho Bay Camps to close

Wagapalooza barks up $23,000

The Animal Care Center benefitted by $23,000 from last weekend's Wagapalooza.

"Including King and Queen of the show, the canines came out in force and danced, jumped, sat in laps, pranced, strutted and sang to the utmost delight of the audience," the ACC said in a news release.   Read the full text here.

Go to www.wagapalooza.com and http://www.stjohnanimalcarecenter.com/ for great photos of the event, to buy a Waga t-shirt, and for more ACC information.   

The competition's winners:

  • Best Old Timer:   T-Bone / owner Sue Rulan
  • Best Puppy Love:  Dash-hound / owner Cindy Ress
  • Best Jumper:  Sweetie Pie / owner Deanna Somerville
  • Best Spots:  Woody / owner Sally Furlong
  • Best Stay At Home Dogs:  LuLu & Satchel / owners Fran Attard & Roger Harland
  • Best Borrowed Dog:  Magnolia / owner  Diana Ripley / sponsored by High Tide Restaurant
  • Best Look Alike:  Scout / owner Mike Keaton
  • Best Tail:  Weezie / owner Jamie Ickes
  • Best Trick:  Triton / owner Lou Carter
  • Best Cow Hound Costume:  Rosey / owner Ava Jayne Parfitt
  • King of Show:  Keider/Lucky / owner Missy Muilenburg
  • Queen of Show: Cloud / owner Jamie Ickes
  • Babe Award:  Carlie, a three-legged former shelter dog who has finally found a permanent home