With $24.5 million of private donations in the kitty so far, Trust for Public Land (TPL) officials are “very, very close,” to raising enough funds to cover the purchase of 415 acres of Estate Maho Bay, according to John Garrison, the group’s Southwest regional office director.
Garrison made the announcement at the The Pavilion Restaurant at Maho Bay Camps on Tuesday evening, February 27, where long-time Love City visitor Sybil Lefferts organized a “thank you” fund raiser jazz concert.
Garrison, former president of the Friends of the V.I. National Park and 19-year Love City resident, led the push to acquire the land when he moved to Florida to head TPL’s Southwest office.
Garrison’s “Pet Project”
“When I left here and joined TPL, it was with the provision they let me work towards preserving Maho Bay, my pet project,” Garrison told a large crowd of campers and residents who cheered for the preservation.
Over the years, several developers were interested in purchasing the 440-acre Estate Maho Bay, which stretches across five hilltops along the North Shore Road and includes the pristine Maho Bay watershed.
The land, which was in limbo for years, was left in undivided shares to the 11 grandchildren of Harvey Monroe Marsh who died in 1971. Each heir had title to one undivided share while the VINP purchased three of the shares in 1970s and TPL purchased one share in 2003.
The remaining seven heirs spent years in local courts attempting to subdivide the property. No progress was made over the past 10 years, until September 5, 2006, when TPL officials announced they had signed contracts with six of the seven heirs to purchase 415 acres of the land.
Under Contract for Eight Months
Although TPL representatives did not release the purchase price of the land, the group has raised $24.5 million in private funding for the purchase so far, which is “very, very close” to what is needed, according to Garrison.
The group is almost ready to close on the deal for the “nice little chunk of property down the hill there,” as Garrison referred to Estate Maho Bay.
“After being under contract for eight months, we are very close at this point to closing,” said Garrison. “We have $24.5 million in total private funding raised so far, and we are almost there. All of this was done without one dime of taxpayer money.”
Once the purchase is complete, Estate Maho Bay will eventually be incorporated into the VINP, Garrison added.
Musicians Say Thanks
The fund raising concert was organized by Lefferts, who leant her talented vocals to the musical entertainment. Lefferts was not alone, as a number of local musicians came out to support TPL including Steve Simon, Jay and Laurie O’Keefe and Andrew Cameron.
The Pavilion Restaurant donated proceeds from bar sales to TPL’s Estate Maho Bay purchase while a number of residents and tourists made private donations, according to Friends Development Director Karen Brady, who did not know how much money was raised at the event.
“Sybil Lefferts wanted to show her appreciation to TPL for preserving Maho Bay and she just saw the opportunity to put on this concert and she put it on all by herself,” said Brady. “Maho donated proceeds from the bar and a number of people wrote checks.”
Residents came out to say thanks to TPL as well.
Additional Funds Needed
“I can’t say how happy I am that they were able to save the property,” said Pam Dolson, who used to live across the street from Maho Bay beach. “Besides the fact that I am emotionally connected to Maho Bay, as many people are, I came out because I want people to know that we can make a difference. We have the strength to change things.”
While millions have already been raised for the purchase of Estate Maho Bay, TPL officials still need additional funds to secure the deal, Garrison explained.
“If you love Maho Bay, you can make a difference — make a contribution,” said Garrison.
Anyone interested in donating funds toward the Estate Maho Bay purchase should contact Garrison at (727) 895-5090, extension 202, or check out TPL’s Web site at www.tpl.org.