The Egbert Marsh Trust’s more than 173-acre parcel, above center, is a highly visible property which comprises most of the Coral Bay valley.
While a large portion of land in the very heart of Coral Bay could be slated for protection, the deal is far from a surety and not even close to complete.
The 173-acre parcel of land in question, which comprises most of the Coral Bay valley in Estate Carolina, is owned by four beneficiaries of the Egbert Marsh Trust. The land contains extensive plantation and post-colonial era ruins and at least one of the beneficiaries hopes to see those ruins and the entire parcel preserved for generations.
But although Sheldon Marsh, a grandson of Egbert Marsh, is pushing for the land to be turned into a territorial park, the government must first pony up the $12 million asking price.
“I am not in the position to just hand over this huge piece of land,” said Marsh. “If anyone thinks I’m in a different position I could send them pictures of my run-down one bedroom apartment.”
With the government’s financial shortfall, however, the $12 million price tag is not expected to be easily met.
“Even though we are hoping to see this become a park and are moving forward, a lot of people thought this was a done deal,” said Marsh. “It is not a done deal. This needs to be made to happen.”
In order to help in the effort, Marsh is working with Senator at Large Craig Barshinger to realize federal matching funds to bring the price tag down. But those federal grants often come with strings attached and are not guaranteed to be approved.
“Federal grants always come with attachments and they are by no means a done deal,” said Marsh. “People have talked about having recreational facilities on the property, but that would likely not be a possibility with the federal funding. The grant process might not work and we’re also talking about a considerable amount of time.”
Now Marsh is hoping to attract volunteers to form a non-profit organization similar to the Magen’s Bay Authority to spearhead a grass roots fundraising campaign.
“The trust has to be bought out and while we’re looking at grants, I don’t want to just look at one solution,” said Marsh. “This would be a second solution to making the land a territorial park.”
With ‘For Sale” signs on the property regularly vandalized, Marsh is certain that many Coral Bay residents are not in favor of the alternative to preserving the land — subdividing the 173-plus acres into quarter-acre and half-acre plots for development.
“We know that people are interested in keeping this property undeveloped,” said the beneficiary. “We have had repeated problems with the our ‘For Sale’ signs being vandalized. But if people want this to be protected they need to step up and help and not just destroy the financial prospects of the property owners.”
“We’re willing to preserve this property but one of the things we need and something that will help us greatly is knowing that we have local support,” said Marsh.
The beneficiary foresees a private and public partnership developing to raise money to purchase the land and later to help run it as a territorial park.
“Now we’re talking about developing a non-profit organization along the lines of the Magen’s Bay Authority on St. Thomas which runs a V.I. park,” Marsh said. “Something like a private charitable organization that could develop and run the park. So the government would own the park, but the park would be run by the organization.”
“The organization could possibly work with the Coral Bay Community Council and the idea is that the authority would be created to help acquire the property and then run the park down the road,” he said. “We want to target individuals and corporations who have an interest in this land being preserved.”
The arrangement would allow for the community to have a strong voice in the future of the land, Marsh added.
“The community could be very involved, rather than the government, in running the park itself,” he said.
Marsh is hoping to get the charitable authority organized quickly and stressed that time is a factor.
“We’d like to get this up and running as soon as we can,” he said. “The longer it takes the better a chance that another deal comes up that would involve development.”
Marsh is one of four beneficiaries of the Trust that owns the land and is the biggest proponent of preserving the property.
“It started with my idea to just preserve the ruins and it ran from there,” he said. “While I’m pushing for the park effort, the other beneficiaries are not nearly as enthusiastic about it as I am.”
Marsh is looking for a core group of volunteers to join his effort to make the land a territorial park. Anyone interested should call him at 860-942-7039.