VINP Stretches Budget, Eyes Fee Increase as Major Concessions Languish, Pay Little

The V.I. National Park is proposing to raise fees for visitors by land and sea to increase revenues – while the National Park Service prepares to increase revenue through its share of National Park Service revenues from new contracts for the major resort concessions at Trunk Bay and Cinnamon Bay for the first time in their history.

The concessions have been operated under yearly extensions of the original agreements with Laurence Rockefeller’s Caneel Bay Resort that expired more than 20 years and have continued to be operated by CBI, the investment company that purchased Caneel Bay Resort more than two years ago.

Virgin Islands National Park officials will conduct a public open house on Wednesday, January 28, to discuss possible fee increases related to the Trunk Bay Expanded Amenity fee and overnight mooring fees that would take effect January 1, 2016.

Reader Questions Resort Readiness
Although there was no mention of new contracts for the major park concessions, an e-mail from a St. John Tradewinds reader questioned the current and future state of affairs at the popular Cinnamon Bay Camp:

“I’ve stayed a couple of times at Cinnamon Bay Campgrounds, and it is amazingly gorgeous,” wrote “Happy Camper” Cindy Ouelette. “However, I’ve noticed that the facility is not being as well-cared for as it used to be.”

“I was told that the concession to the company who runs the campground for the national park service is running out shortly,” Ouelette continued. “A Tradewinds article noted that the new contract for the campground was going out for proposals shortly, with an award anticipated for Summer 2015.”

“I’m just wondering how that might affect my group which is beginning to plan a February 2016 visit,” the prospective visitor continued. “Will there be significant upgrades by then? We just want to make sure that the facilities will be clean (emphasis on showers and bathrooms) and the restaurant offering good service and a better variety of food.”

“I wasn’t quite sure how to go obtaining more information, as I am currently in residence in a northern climate, and not on St. John (unfortunately),” Ouelette added. “Your help in letting me know what I might expect would really be appreciated.”

Fees Unchanged Since 1998
The current park user fees for Trunk Bay facilities have been in place since June 1998. Current user fees at Trunk Bay are $4 for an Individual Day Pass, an Individual Annual Pass is $10 with the annual Family Pass priced at $15. 

There was no information available on the concession fees the NPS received from Cinnamon and Trunk Bay concessions or NPS expenditures related to those fees.

The Expanded Amenity Fee at Trunk Bay is not charged to persons under 16 years of age or holders of the America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Senior, Access or Military Passes. These passes also may be obtained at the Park.

Beginning in 1990 the park began installing mooring balls to better protect the marine environment.  With the financial support of the Friends of Virgin Islands National Park, overnight moorings have now been installed in 13 locations throughout the park.  Overnight moorings are $15 per night and that fee has not changed since its inception in 2000. Park officials did not release any further financial information on fee collections.

“We are committed to keeping the park affordable however we also want to provide visitors with the best possible experience,” VINP Superintendent Brion FitzGerald said in a VINP press release. “The money collected from these fees is used to maintain visitor facilities, including the boat moorings and to pay for park interpretive programs like the cultural history demonstrations at Annaberg.”

Rehabilitated Restrooms
In 2014, fee revenues were used to rehabilitate the restrooms at the park visitor center in Cruz Bay, according to the press release. 

This summer the Trunk Bay shower and restroom facilities will receive a facelift, including new fixtures, skylights, roofs and gutters, paid for by user fees. Additional revenue raised by a fee increase would help better maintain all park facilities and ensure they remain in good condition, according to the VINP release.

In 2013, more than 400,000 park visitors contributed $64.7 million to the local economy and supported 798 jobs related to tourism, according to the press release.