The National Park Service will hold a virtual public meeting on Tuesday at 6 p.m. to discuss an initial set of concepts for the redevelopment of Caneel Bay, the iconic resort at Virgin Islands National Park on St. John’s north shore that has been closed since the hurricanes of 2017.
The NPS introduced the concepts and announced a 30-day public comment period in January. Residents may offer their feedback until Feb. 17 through the Caneel Bay redevelopment website.
The concepts range from re-establishing a world-class resort on the 150-acre property along with a mid-range overnight experience to minimally restoring the site for public hiking and beach access.
The property currently operates under a retained use estate, called a RUE, a unique arrangement crafted by Laurance S. Rockefeller in 1983, setting aside the resort for independent operation and management within Virgin Islands National Park without NPS oversight.
CBI Acquisitions LLC controls the lease through September 2023 and sought to extend it before it would invest in repairs after hurricanes Irma and Maria caused massive damage in September 2017. However, the Department of the Interior rejected that proposal and, in July, announced it would move forward with an open bidding process when the lease is up.
While the RUE will remain in place until its expiration on Sept. 30, 2023, the NPS began planning for the Caneel Bay redevelopment last fall. The goals of the redevelopment plan are to ensure the preservation and protection of natural, cultural, and marine resources, provide for economic development opportunities through commercial services, maximize operational efficiencies, and ensure compliance with law, regulation, and policy, according to January’s press release.
In line with these objectives, four preliminary redevelopment options are proposed for the public to comment on, including:
Alternative A — The NPS preliminary proposed action balances enhanced public access, recreational opportunities, resource protection, and park operational efficiency while re-establishing a world-class overnight experience at a luxury resort. Additionally, the concept calls for a mid-range overnight experience at Hawksnest Beach separate from the resort, and the NPS would provide space for an organization to design, fund, construct, and operate a community destination, such as an amphitheater, museum, or cultural center.
Alternative B offers a similar management approach to Alternative A, except the resort area is expanded, and a mid-range overnight experience and public access at Hawksnest Beach are removed.
Alternative C includes all resort zone elements identified in Alternative A, and the resort zone is similar to that of the historic boundaries of the Caneel Bay RUE. No visitor services would be provided at the site for non-resort guests, and the NPS would not provide a community space at the Caneel Bay area.
No-Action Alternative assumes sole management by the NPS upon expiration of the RUE in 2023. The NPS would not issue any permit, lease, or concession contract.
The NPS would minimally restore the site to allow for safe access by visitors through existing roads and trails, including safe access to beaches.
Additional information about the proposed options can be found at the NPS Caneel Bay redevelopment website and will be discussed at Tuesday’s meeting.
The virtual meeting will be hosted on GoToWebinar. The meeting link is https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7918516037789949967. Once you register for the meeting, you will receive a confirmation email with a unique join link. Open this link in any web browser to automatically join the webinar.
If you don’t have the join link or are having trouble being automatically launched into the meeting, you can join by manually entering the 9-digit webinar ID: 322-971-755, according to the NPS. If you are on a computer, open a Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge browser and copy and paste the following link into your browser: https://goto.com/webinar/join. Enter the webinar ID, then select Join.