Virgin Islands photog swims with the fishes

Simonsen_turtle The Virgin Island's Steve Simonsen has made an international reputation for himself specializing in marine photography

The St. John resident's underwater images of divers, coral reefs, and fish have been published in magazines including Caribbean Travel & Life, Scuba Diving and Sport Diver.  His work is also on display in his book, Living Art.

Recently, Simonsen's been drawn to video projects, one of which will be shown in rough cut at the Marketplace Thursday night.  He will talk about the experience of making the film "Leatherbacks of St. Croix."

Livingartt The documentary focuses on the conservation of Leatherback sea turtles at Sandy Point Wildlife Refuge on St Croix. Working alongside members of the Fish and Wildlife Service and The West Indies Marine Animal Research and Conservation Service, Steve hopes the film will help raise awareness of the endangered creatures to help protect, recover and sustain the threatened and endangered marine animals of the West Indies.

Leatherbacks is one of two projects being shown at St. John Film Society's Free Movie Night Thursday.  The other chronicles diminishing 'spawning schools' in the VI's. Fishermen are struggling to preserve their livelihoods, and scientists from the University of the Virgin Islands are racing to understand how to restore and maintain fish populations across the Caribbean.

Unrest at the Westin

WestinA number of Westin Virgin Grand Villa owners are unhappy. And they're looking for other owners to join them in challenging management.

In a phone call to NewsofStJohn.com, one owner charged that some of the costs of adding dozens of new units to the project have been passed on to existing owners without their approval.

Gene Jaspan, in ad advertisement in the Tradewinds, said,"We are villa owners who want to prevent Starwood from making more costly changes without required owner consent."

"We also want to revise the by-laws, which give Starwood complete control of the Board of the owners’ association until the very last unit is sold. And we want to elect independent owner representatives to that Board."

However, he charged, Starwood will not give the dissidents the names of other owners so he can contact them to solicit their support. "If you are interested in obtaining more information or participating, please email … [email protected]."

Villa inventory climbs, prices hold

After a two-week decline in available homes on the Multiple Listing Service, the number of villas for sale is again headed into record territory.

In late March, the MLS showed 141 properties available, a decrease from the 150 mark reached earlier in the month.  In the last three weeks, the number of listings has risen higher to 148.

But despite the growing inventory, there are few signs of fire sales.  The average asking price for a home is $2.2 million, compared with $2.16 million in January.  If you remove a Peter Bay property that's been on the market for six months or more, priced at $32 million, the average drops to $2 million.

The median price of homes for sale now is $1.5 million, compared to $1.375 million in January.