What’s Going on with Cinnamon Bay?

cinnamon beach sept 2018
Cinnamon Bay beach Tuesday

Many of you have been asking us what’s happening over at Cinnamon Bay. As I’m sure you probably know by now, the campground sustained tremendous damage during Hurricane Irma and has been closed ever since. Not only is the area unsightly, but the campground’s continued closure is a blow to our economy as it reduces the number of affordable accommodations here on island. So what’s happening over there? Well unfortunately, not a whole heck of a lot.

For starters, the place is still a mess. The Virgin Islands National Park and its volunteers did a great job of cleaning up the beach itself. They also cleared the parking lot areas, as well as a nice path down to the beach. The campground itself, however, remains untouched. Cleanup in that area is the responsibility of Redwood Parks, the company contracted to run the concessions at Cinnamon Bay. And as of today, they haven’t done a darn thing.

I reached out to Brian Stewart, the president of Redwood Parks, and asked him what’s happening with the campground, specifically why no clean up has occurred. He sent the following to me via email:

“We’ve presented a number of options to NPS that would allow operations to reopen. To date, non have been approved.”

He continued, “We remain hopeful NPS will realize that life on St. John changed with hurricanes Irma and Maria. And that we need to work together to prioritize the restoration of both Cinnamon and Trunk Bay.”

(Redwood Parks was also awarded the concessions contract at Trunk Bay. That, too, remains closed.)

I asked Brian on three occasions to elaborate on his proposals. He never responded.

When I contacted Steve Black, the acting superintendent of the VI National Park, and asked about the proposals, he said he was “not aware of any new proposals that Cinnamon Bay Resort has put forth.”

I then reached out to the National Park Service in Washington, DC. Perhaps they had some insight to share. While they did respond, they really didn’t have any news to offer. Dana Soehn, a spokeswoman for the National Park Service, sent us the following:

“As you likely know, Virgin Islands National Park is anxious to resume concession services at the Cinnamon Bay Resort as soon as possible. The Park continues to have a contract with the concessioner who was providing the services before the hurricane and is working with them [to] address cleanup and restoration efforts and getting services services up and running again including food and beverage, recreation, lodging and camping.”

Dana continued, “We don’t have any further information available at this time, but I can assure you that everyone is working hard to find a solution that enables services to return to the Cinnamon Bay Resort area.”

It’s been more than a year since the storm happened, yet twisted metal continues to lay scattered around the campground area at Cinnamon. Boards with nails poking out are strewn about. Trees remain toppled and the destroyed cottages sit untouched. Enough is enough. It’s time to stop talking about how we all want the place cleaned up, and it’s time to start doing, in my opinion.

Tree Down on Cottage Cinnamon Bay Sept 2018

Trees Down Cinnamon Sept 2018

Cinnamon Bay Twisted Metal Sept 2018

Cinnamon Bay Restaurant Sept 2018

Protruding Nails Cinnamon Bay Sept 2018

In July 2016, Redwood Parks was awarded a 15-year contract to operate the campground and concessions at Cinnamon Bay. It officially began on October 1, 2016. They operated it successfully for less than a year; They have not been operating it longer than they had. So at what point does that contract get terminated? Or can Redwood Parks continue to do what its doing, which appears to be very little, if anything, without being in violation of their contract? This little blogger, and many of you I’m sure, would like to know.

We asked the Virgin Island National Park, as well as the National Park Service just that. Unfortunately we have yet to get an answer. But if or when we do, we will be certain to share that info with all of you.

Let’s end this post on a happy note. Check out this pic and quick video we took Tuesday at Cinnamon Bay:

cinnamon beach water sept 2018

52 thoughts on “What’s Going on with Cinnamon Bay?”

  1. I dearly love Cinnamon and when I was on island in May managed to get the whole beach to myself. It was so beautiful. However, the condition of the campground and restaurant brought me to tears…literally. I truly hope there is some work done very soon. I know I am not alone when I say that too many amazing memories have been made there and many yet to come!

    • Well said Kori. Cinnamon is the only beach we go to when we visit. Beautiful beach to listen to some Kenny Chesney and look up to see his old house while listening to Old Blue Chair. Lots of memories for sure. When we came down in Feb, it was the most surreal feeling to see the campgrounds at Cinnamon in complete ruins. Like a war zone. The beach is still awesome but that destruction is unreal. News of St John fans need to do a MASS SOCIAL MEDIA BLITZ to call attention to the inaction on the part of Redwood Parks. Hopefully it gets traction and becomes a story in the mainstream media. Then you will see things happen. Thanks for stirring the pot on this Jenn.

  2. I would think the negotiated contract would lay out who’s responsible. This way there is no confusions to, “several options” in a service agreement.

  3. Thanks Jenn for looking into this issue. We are currently visiting St John and went to Cinnamon Bay on Saturday. Like many, we spent our vacation days at the cottages, with #10 as our favorite. It was a tearful visit. Our hope is that someday we will be able to stay again at our blessed spot. We certainly feel helpless at this point.

  4. Often times there will be a “force majeure” clause in agreements. The operator who leases the property might be responsible for maintenance, repairs, equipment and whatnot, but total annihilation is sometimes another story. Depends on if they had some protection in the agreement.Can you find out any more about the agreement details between the redwood people and NPS?

  5. Can you get a copy of the contract Jenn? Freedom of Info. With a bit more info, we might know how to advocate and get the wheels turning. Thanks for the update, sad as it is.

  6. This question was commented by a Ranger at VINP.
    There is a consideration let Redwood Parks to end the lease to allow another company to take over the lease. That was back in July.

  7. Thanks very much for the update, Jenn. I can hear your frustration come through over the lack of transparency both from Redwood Parks and the NPS, and I’m sure there are many who, like me, share your frustration.

    The way I see it, this is ultimately the federal government’s responsibility, so I’m going to contact the offices of Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, the US Senators for New Hampshire, where I live. I can’t say that I’m hopeful for any near-term action, since both Senators have a few other things on their mind at the moment, but perhaps if your readers from other states also contact their Senators’ offices, we can eventually light a fire under someone.

    As I said in some online comments made directly to the NPS, the lack of progress may be understandable, but the lack of information is not.

  8. This breaks my heart. We have been to St. John and enjoyed almost all of the beaches. We came last February to help with clean up. We were able to help clear trails. Not sure what can be done about this problem but I would be happy to help however I could .

  9. Thanks for stirring the pot. It seems like a slap in the face to the folks that still need their energy and money to rebuild homes, schools, and health care facilities. We’ve witnessed people doing their part, and then some. Step up or step out Redwood.

  10. Redwoods Parks Co was formed in 2015. This guy gets a 15 year lease to run Cinnamon after having been in business for…5 minutes?
    There is so much that is wrong about what is going on down there. I am pleased Jenn and others are poking the bear. I loved Cinnamon and my wife and I made STJ a priority visit when we visited STT annually. We sadly (and/or fortunately) have moved on to other Caribbean islands that fared better after the storms, recovered faster, had less political greed involved.
    SO much beauty. Yet, between the barges (or lack thereof), the resorts giving up on STJ, nobody wants to invest, or give up there lease either…aka Redwood et al, it’s a wonder Jenn remains.
    You could write a book about the failed recovery. I am sad for me, and for all of us.

  11. This company put a huge amount of money into those new tents that were too close to each other and took away from the bare spots people loved for their space and simpleness and low cost. They tried to turn Cinnamon into a resort with cheesy cruise ship style entertainment, etc. I think they are regretting investing so much in now destroyed tents. If they only had the cottages to fix up I think they would have done so by now. I think the owner is demoralized and feeling quite stupid (and he probably lost a lot of money).

    • For us, we used to go to Cinnamon every year and LOVED camping in the bare spots. The new owners (Redwoods) ruined the bare spots. Yes, we were only paying $40 per night for the bare spot, but we rented a car and supported local restaurants. My family of four spent on average $1500 yearly outside of Cinnamon over 10 days. The lure of being close to nature without spending a fortune on housing and living simply is what drew us to St. John. We will only return if a new owner returns the campground to the original format.

  12. “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”. I was there a few weeks ago. truly irresponsible intransigence on NP’s part. Isn’t NP the landlord? They can’t handle this, how are they going to handle issues around Caneel? Many islanders wanting to get back to work I’m sure.

  13. Sadly this is what happens when a low bidder is given the contract with no background check, or proof the concessionaire has any experience. This is directly impacting my business and do not understand why concessionaires within the park are not required to post a bond to hold them responsible.

  14. I just retired after 38 years at Quabbin Reservoir in Western Mass. My wife and I would love to renovate and operate Cinnamon. My background is civil engineering. Let me know.

  15. I don’t intend this to be an “off” comment, but given the state of Cinnamon, we ventured to Hawksnest for the FIRST time ever and had no clue how BEAUTIFUL it was over there too …..

  16. Some very knowledgeable comments about Redwoods. Jenn, if you are up to it, it looks as if your “blog crew” are ready to “sail and fight” with you and St. Johnians on Cinnamon and eventually Caneel.
    Petitions, Editorials, etc.? Let us know. Glad that you secured the 144 page contract between the
    National Parks and Redwoods. Thank you!

  17. When I was there in July, I went to check out the campground to try and get a sense of when (or if) my group could ever stay there. Redwood Parks hasn’t picked up a stick. I was able to find a web-based version of the concessions contract that had all the gory details (the 114 page document Jenn referred to). Interestingly enough, that link has been taken down in recent weeks. Hmmm… all this attention starting to raise some eyebrows, so let’s take down the contract! This was the link:

    I’m not a lawyer, so some of the subtlety was lost on me, but I got the distinct impression that Redwood Parks had a certain time period to come up with a plan for the NPS, and that the NPS had the option of cancelling the contract if they felt things were going well or if payments were missed. In my opinion, cancelling the contract is probably near the bottom of the NPS priority list, because it would mean re-opening the bidding process, and, as I understand it, they weren’t exactly overwhelmed with bidders last time around. Even the previous management company, CBI Acquisitions, didn’t want to rebid (and oh by the way, they’re the folks in charge of Caneel, and Jenn has a couple of articles about how that’s going). Now that the campground has gone feral, who would want to bid on it knowing that they’ll have to dump millions into it to get it back up and running?

    I think we’ll have to wait for Redwood Parks and NPS to sort things out. I suspect Redwood Parks is trying to change the contract to extend it, so that they have additional years to make their money back.

    Meanwhile, without food or drink available at either Trunk Bay or Cinnamon Bay, people from cruise ships who would normally come to St. John to spend the day on the beach are not coming anymore. Ask a taxi driver about how they’re doing as a result of that. There are people who have offered to open up a food truck to help alleviate this problem, but as of yet, NPS hasn’t agreed to anything. There’s probably a bunch of red tape that would be involved. If they could just relax the rules for a little while, at least the cruise ship folks would be able to come over. It’s not like the cruise ships give everyone coolers full of food/water to take on a beach excursion. I believe the taxi drivers have requested a special meeting with the NPS, but I’m not sure if it happened yet.

  18. Jenn, if you could post appropriate phone numbers for NPS folks and Redwoods, I’m sure they would be inundated with phone calls requesting action.


  19. I really hate to hear this. It was one of our favorite places when we were on the island. How is the big tree by the restaurant at Cinnamon Bay? My family adopted it as ours. Also, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel? We haven’t been able to find any information.

    • the big tree is still there. I recall there was some damage to it, but as a whole the tree was looking good. like the rest of cinnamon, the tree could use some TLC, such as an arborist to keep it healthy.

    • Hi Laura,
      We were there in November last year and again in April, (And going again in October)
      To answer your questions: The Rain Tree in Cinnamon made it. In November you could see the leaves sprouting. By April it was as magnificent as ever!
      As for Our Lady of Mt. Carmel: Not a scratch.

  20. This is clear negligence on Redwoods end and looks very bad considering they are just in the beginning of their contract. If there is a legal way to proceed forward releasing them from heir signed contract, I would move forward as soon as possible. Running that concession is a huge opportunity and to let it sit for this long is unexceptable.

  21. Just because things are public don’t mean they aren’t happening. A group tried to gain permission to clean up Cinnamon, Trunk and other park areas and were denied. Nothing is ever one sided. I’m not defending anyone and agree that more should have happened by now. National government red tape is thick and no one ever gives a straight answer. Everyone pointing fingers at each other while no one takes responsibility is hard to see. Having another (short term) interim Superintendent not experienced with St John and with little more authority than to dig up baby palm trees doesn’t help either.

  22. Is anyone still camping at Cinnamon Bay, albeit without any services? I.E. Is anyone taking a hammock and water filter, etc? Is it possible to spend time there overnight? Thanks!

  23. Has any further progress been made at Cinnamon Bay Campground? We are eager to get back to our favorite beach in February…

  24. Boot Redwood out of there and I think many of us would be willing to assist in finding (e.g. Go Fund Me) an organization that is willing to put in the effort and support local employment opportunities. I not only want to get back to Cinnamon Bay, but my soul craves the release I get the minute I step off the ferry. Please keep posting updates and any ways we can all help.

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