After 37 years of environmentally conscious operation, Stanley Selengut’s lease for Maho Bay Campground is due to expire in January 2012.
In anticipation of the looming deadline, the popular campground is currently planning to shutter its doors in July 2011 to have enough time to clear the property before evacuating. A national non-profit land conservation group, however, is working to stave off that reality.
Hoping to save the beloved campground from the wrecking ball, Trust for Public Land recently launched a campaign to acquire the 14-acre eco-resort perched above Little Maho Bay on North Shore Road in the V.I. National Park.
Led by TPL’s Southwest Florida and Caribbean Field office director John Garrison — a former director of Friends of VINP — the group successfully acquired the nearby 440-acre Estate Maho Bay property last year, which will be conveyed to VINP as federal funds become available.
Now TPL has turned its attention up the hill to the iconic campground, explained Garrison.
“We’ve just, within the past week or so, launched a campaign to start raising funds to try to acquire the Maho Bay Campground property so that the campground will continue,” Garrison said.
While the property is currently on the market for $32 million, Garrison declined to comment on how much TPL needs to raise in order to buy the property.
“We don’t know yet how much exactly we’re going to need,” he said. “I don’t have a figure that I can really discuss.”
If TPL is successful in acquiring the Maho Bay Camps, the group plans to keeps things basically as they currently operate, according to Garrison.
“Preferably, the property, if it is acquired by TPL, will be leased to Stanley (Selengut) on another long-term lease so it can pretty much remain as it has been for the past 30-odd years,” Garrison said. “It is a real icon on St. John.”
The campaign to save Maho Bay Camps won’t be an easy one, but Garrison thinks it is possible, he explained.
“I see it as a possibility,” said the TPL Caribbean field office director. “It’s going to require an enormous effort and the chance for federal money is not real good. So the money is going to have to come from private individuals and groups.”
“There are so many demands on federal funds, it’s not likely that anything would be approved in the time frame before the lease runs out,” he said.
Protecting Maho Bay Campground would ensure a unique experience for future generations of visitors to St. John while maintaining its low-impact on the ecosystem, Garrison added.
“Maho Camps is an important public entity that fills a need for affordable accommodation while also being totally environmentally-friendly,” he said. “It’s important to save to maintain the recycling efforts and environmental practices they have out there and to offer an affordable place for people to stay.”
While the future of Maho Bay Camps remains in question, Selengut’s sister property the eco-resort Estate Concordia Preserve on the southern shore of St. John, continues to be expanded. The recent opening of a restaurant and store already added to the remote resort’s appeal and additional guest units and art activities are expected in the future.
TPL has established a website for the Maho Bay Camps fund. Credit card donations can be made online at www.tpl.org/mahocamps, where there is also information for mailing checks for the fund.
For more information about Maho Bay Camps check out the website www.maho.org.