A Rant About Development
I want to make Cruzans, in particular, aware of something in light of the likely soon-to-be-developed Botany Bay on St. Thomas. By the way, St. Tomeans, I am truly sorry for you. I know someone on St. Croix who says Botany Bay is the most beautiful beach on your island. Prepare to see your last deer and sea turtles become extinct. They almost certainly can’t survive that kind of human encroachment.
Cruzans, don’t think that St. Croix can‘t be turned into a heavily developed island, however many years it might take. Only a small percentage of our island is parkland protected by the government and nonprofit organizations.
The other day, I was hiking in our beautiful forested Estate Annaly, up on the open dirt road overlooking the remote mountains and sea. I came across a lengthy trail that had recently been cut down the ridge with a chainsaw. On the trail was a red ribbon tied to a bush-the possible mark of a surveyor.
Take a look at this website: http://www.carambolaproperty.com/index.htm In case you don’t know, our cash-strapped V.I. government recently rezoned a huge swath of our northwest forest for commercial/residential development. This includes our gorgeous Annaly and undeveloped Mt. Eagle, our highest peak.
Note that the history section of the site begins with the 1950s by discussing Mr. Rockefeller’s development of an environmentally sensitive resort (Fountain Valley, now Carambola). It’s as if no history happened before then. Annaly, which is slated for development, is the eastern end of our sacred Maroon Ridge where runaway slaves used to hide and sometimes managed to escape to freedom in Puerto Rico. The site even misrepresents the Rockefeller family’s intentions, saying they supported future development in the area. Nonsense. They wanted and built a first-class hotel and golf course that would be nestled in remote mountains. They didn’t want future development spreading out for miles.
Look at the website and see for yourself how little some developers know and care about our home. Look at the photos and ask yourself which you would rather see: those miles of gorgeous, undeveloped green mountains, some of the few remaining on the island, or miles of resorts, houses, condos, restaurants, and golf courses?
I support development, but not on every square inch of our islands. Some parts of our home are too precious and should be left alone in perpetuity. We might disagree over where some of the lines should be drawn, but I think we all agree that there have to be limits.
We should be forever grateful to our recently departed Mr. Rockefeller, a brilliant businessman and humanitarian, for having had the wisdom and foresight to help establish the park on St. John. A couple of decades from now, it might be one of the few places left where we can go to hear ourselves think: http://archive.rockefeller.edu/bio/laurance.php
How can one stop the developement? I know the government there is not the best, but don't residents have the opportunity to vote on something such as this? I live in CA & I am so ready to leave just because of the overcrowding and developement! I wanted to move to STX for space. Hopefully, somehthing can be done to preserve the beauty there.
Sorry - but I have to do this - oh please!
I agree with you 100%. But we are the cause. All of us transplants here. You, and me .If there was not a market for devolopment there would be none.
The goverment can not afford to buy the land. they could not even afford a few million to buy lindguist.. All land owners are not as wealthy as the rockefellers and cant afford to donate it to the gov.
My feeling is that if more people had stood up and screamed about Botany Bay, the development could have been halted, but I know people are busy with their work and families. We have organizations such as EAST on St. Thomas and SEA on St. Croix that are working for sensible development that has minimal impact on the environment. Move here and give them a donation!
I see what you’re saying. I just hope a wealthy philanthropist or a non-profit organization steps up and buys all or most of our northwest forest. I have talked with more than one Cruzan about this, and we are very scared about what may happen to our forest.
Wouldn't it be great if everyone could donate a bit and purchase some of the land together with the agreement that it will be preserved? How great that would be!
A couple of points.
One, no need to feel sorry for St. Thomians over Botany Bay. Most residents have never been on Botany Bay nor are they allowed access by land to Botany Bay. In the almost 20 years I lived on St. Thomas the closest I ever got to to Botany Bay was while in a plane taking off and landing at the airport. I do however understand your concern over the environmental impact, but I don't think you are privy to the revised plans by the developers to address those concerns. I think perhaps it would be prudent to wait until the developers share those plans with EAST and other concerned individuals before judging the project.
Two, while it is with good intentions that you laud the recently departed Mr. Rockefeller, by his actions he is unwittingly squeezing long-time St. Johnian residents from their island. Soon only the people who can afford $1M+ homes and the associated property taxes will be able to lay claim to the island. This simply underscores the need for balance between preserved and developed lands. While one may be grateful to Mr. Rockefeller for creating a place people around the world can enjoy, let's not ignore the plight of the people who for generations have called St. John their home.
Things move at a snail's pace on St. Croix. We've been talking about a Christiansted bypass for 30 years. You will not see, in your lifetime, any significant development on St. Croix. Enjoy the view, it will be around for quite some time.
I’m aware of the access problem, and maybe that’s why I think it’s sad: You can’t easily visit one of your most beautiful beaches. I was really thinking more in terms of the environmental impact further down the road as the whole area likely becomes developed. Thank you for reminding me of the lower-income people on St. John.
I read the article in the Avis a couple of months ago about the bypass, and I was thinking more decades down the road.
kupiers, i disagree wholeheartedly about your impression of st john [and as it applies to any of these islands]
for every 'mainlander' that has come down here and buy property, there was someone on the other end to sell it.
the 'plight', as you call it, is brought on by choice.
oh and back to the stx issue too... i have hiked for hours and hours in that region of st croix, the cool little pool at the bottom, the trail across that steep grassy hillside, all the ruins and trails tucked away, the deep canopy of old forest... i will be very disappointed to see it go.
but, again, without the millions of dollars to preserve it myself, or someone like rockefeller or the nature conservancy stepping in, it's [sometimes unfortunately] a free market here and the chase of the mighty dollar will win out.
kind of silly that months and years down the road, as development does start in that area of the island, it will be the same people and the same government officials [with no foresight] who changed the zoning, allowed it all to happen, and touted it as an achievement, who will later publicly cry foul and work to get the devlopments blocked.....
Do you own property? If so, I find it hard to believe that you can't put two-and-two together.
Some months ago the V.I. Daily News listed all of the property owners in the Virgin Islands who were deliquent on their property taxes. It took more than two full pages in small print to list everyone.
Property values have doubled and quadrupled in just the past five years on St. John. Driving up that land appreciation is the ever dwindling amount of available undeveloped land.
Exactly what do you think happens to the burden of property taxes when values go up?
If given the choice between losing your property over an inability to keep up with property taxes and selling your house and land, which would YOU choose? Would you so casually think your decision was a simple matter of choice?
yes-- i started from zero [ie no family land] and worked my way into the positive.
remember why those values are high though.. because people have sold their land for those sorts of numbers. if, in the 50s, 60s, 70s, no one ever sold their land to anyone who was moving down here by choice, this process never would have started in the first place. if, in the 80s and 90s and in the last few years, no more land had been sold, the process could have, again, been slowed significantly. often times, it is not the need to pay taxes that drives the sale of land [something that seems to take years and years of bickering in the court system and judicial rulings that force the auction or sale] but need for new suvs with shiny new rims.
liken it to a developer bemoaning a new strip mall in his own backyard... creating the living environment by his own actions then complaining about it way after the fact.
Richard and kudzu,
I know you both have the best interests of the islands at heart, and I suspect there is truth in what both of you say. Some people sell willingly while others sell reluctantly, giving up what they consider to be their home. Development, conservation, the balancing act between them, and how they affect people’s lives are serious issues in the USVI, so I’m glad you’re voicing your views on them.
St. Tomeans: Go and see your Botany Bay. Ring the buzzer or take a boat or do whatever is necessary to see it. I do this all the time on St. Croix. I park off the road and wander onto a property (hopefully, dogs won’t attack me) and meet the owner or caretaker. Sometimes, I get a guided tour.
From everything I’ve heard, Botany Bay is absolutely awesome. We lose our heritage and environment because we are not familiar with them and people who don’t care take them from us.
While I'm sure you have the most benevolent of intentions, be careful of the advice you dole out-- some people might not want their buzzers rung for the sake of someone else's botanical excursion.
Trespassing on someone's private property (for whatever reason) isn't the cleverest idea- it's possible you might get dogs, an angry owner, or worse.
Please be respectful of peoples' privacy in your exploring!
I wonder if perhaps you could start a fundraiser to buy up land for preservation. I know that around here people begun doing this to prevent farms from development. I can see support coming from all over the US and World if more awareness of this problem is raised. A web site to safe the natural resources on the VI island would be a great start. Donation could be made via paypal. One other way would be a Amzon.com link. A % of the sales from hits to the site would go to the cause.
Trying not to jump in on this but I do have a few corrections. First of all Botany Bay by no means is the prettiest beach on St. Thomas. Prettiest rocky beach maybe, but no sand at all. The two times I was there, there was no sand on the beach and it was quite rough.
The developers have decided not to do the hotel. Instead they have opted to sell the property for what it has been legally zoned for for years. You can't blame them for that, trying to recoup their investment.
I appreciate the concerns about development, however, unless someone can be found to purchase the land, nothing can be done. There has been a gate there for as long as I remember and no one ever objected to it like they have to the east end beaches that are changing hands.
Maybe you can encourage the Nature's Conservancy to buy the land?
By the way FOG, we are referred to as St. Thomians, them over there as Crucians, Cruzan is a rum!LOL!