Since forming the St. John Land Conservancy in May and purchasing a 3.6 parcel of land at Haulover Bay on the island’s East End for preservation, Lauren Mercadante hasn’t slowed down.
Mercadante has been visiting St. John since she was a child and now owns a home in the Coral Bay area with her own family. She was thrilled to be able to give back to the island she loves so much by ensuring that pristine Haulover Bay would never be the site of large-scale, or small-scale, development.
“I assumed wrongly that this niche was taken and I didn’t want to tread on anyone’s toes,” Mercadante previously told St. John Tradewinds. “But we had talked about doing something to give back to St. John, which we love so much and is such a huge part of my life and my kids’ lives.”
That was all the impetus Mercadante needed. She set about forming SJLC over the winter months and formally announced the group and its first major purchase in May. Since then, Mercadante has been fielding phone calls from St. John residents eager to help her and SJLC.
“Since the article came out about SJLC, we have had an outpouring of calls from happy St. John residents wanting to give their time and talents from bush clearing, to bookkeeping, to paper chasing,” she said. “I’m not surprised; this is what the people of St. John are all about. Donation inquiries are picking up too.”
Mercadante has also been hard at work on the group’s website, www.stjohnlandconservancy.org, which is now up and running.
“We’re particularly excited to announce that our web site is up and running,” she said. “We’re very proud of our beautiful web site. People can find out who we are, what we do, how to donate, and how to contact us.”
The group was originally established with Lauren Mercadante as president of the board of SJLC, Attorney Raf Muilenburg as secretary and Mercadante’s husband George as treasurer. Last week, Mercadante announced a new member of the board and a bit of shuffling.
“We’ve also had a board restructuring,” said Mercadante. “We’re happy to welcome Athena Swartly, a nine-year East End resident and beekeeper, to join us as treasurer. George Mercadante takes over as Secretary. And Raf Muilenburg remains as board member.”
“Athena is a wonderful woman and a gift to us and St. John,” said Mercadante.
And the group has big plans for the future too. As SJLC plans improvements to the Haulover area, the group will work with V.I. National Park’s Chief of Resource Management Rafe Boulon as a consultant, Mercadante explained.
“We are making plans for improvements at Haulover,” she said. “We expect to have local expert Rafe Boulon working with us on an environmental and current conditions consultation. I would also like to get as much historical and cultural information on the area as possible.”
“We’re going to have David Knight consult with us about the cultural resources out there,” said Mercadante. “We want to keep everything as natural as possible, as it is, without having any kind of human impact. We want people to just show up and feel like they are walking in to the natural world of St. John the way it always was.”’
The next step for the group is to look at the other parcels for sale in the Haulover area, Mercadante added.
“The next step is we are discussing the rest of the Haulover land,” she said. “What we really need now is to have people who really care about the rest of the property to step up. We are in preliminary discussions right now and there are a lot of great ideas.”
Mercadante also wants to hear from residents what, if any, type of improvements should be made in the area.
“We’re going to be doing some improvements on the property that we just purchased having to do with drainage and parking,” said the SJLC president. “I would especially welcome community input about what people think of Haulover and how they envision its future. Its their land for their use, it’s important to know what the community wants.”
For more information about SJLC check out www.stjohnlandconservancy.org. To contact Mercadante, email LaurenM@stjohnlandconservancy.org.