Save Salt River and Bioluminescent Bay!
I'm sorry but I totally, and respectfully disagree with your five statements listed above. Your comment that this project is a research and educational facility...what part of education does not include the public? I've heard of no one proposing a theme park research complex, but buildings that allow the public some entrance to observe the labs and use specific rooms as the need arises. Public observation of research labs is not a new concept and one of the latest incarnations is the Di Mare/Clinton center at Fairchild Tropical Gardens in Miami. These new labs have been specifically and artfully designed to allow some public interaction and observation of researchers at work studying the tropical flora environment of our planet. If a large center like this can be developed on a very small piece of land on the periphery of these famous gardens in Miami, then why not use Christiansted with its ample supply of empty buildings and vacant waterfront (and Gallows Bay too)?
The location of this research center is simply an issue of design for the architects and urban designers to address after they have been given a detailed program of requirements by the Chair of this Marine Research Center and the NPS.
By the way, there is already much discussion wafting around the island in favor of Christiansted being the location..."the cat (or should I say fish) is out of the bag"!
Obviously there are opportunities for public education. But the other poster was suggesting putting the facility in Csted as a tourist attraction -- over and against locating it on NPS land in SRB (and Castle Nugent on the southside), where it can ALSO be open to the public. Locating the facility on already owned land that's halfway between both the northside and westside REEFs is not inconsequential.
I think what many people fail to recognize is the SIZE of this proposed facility as well.
If anyone can find 50 to 70 acres of waterfront in Csted or Gallows Bay that people are willing to part with, I'm sure we're all ears.
Also...probably not fair to compare this proposal to the Fairchild Botanical in Miami. They have been around for 80 years and have more members than there are people living on STX. On the other hand, Fairchild has greatly expanded because they had the land. Csted and Gallows Bay does not have the land.
For those unfamiliar with the proposal, you can see a slideshow at
I may be speaking only for myself, but to be honest I don't have any real problem with the development in Salt River. I wish that something could be done to utilize all the vacant properties in Christiansted as much as anyone, but what I really object to is the de facto destruction of the bio bay. Dredge Triton Bay and light it up and leave the bio bay alone- maybe even use it as an educational tool for all the marine biologists!
Long live the dinoflagellates!
Based on the man-made origin of Bio Bay and observation of the entrance's quite shallow depth, I would say Bio Bay is one good hurricane from being silted back in by a storm surge and returned to its original condition, ...that of a marsh pond.
I'm also not aware of any science that says the installation of a pier in the bay would kill dinoflagellates (basically, a common type of ocean algae). They are a hearty and proliferate bunch. If the entrance is allowed to continue to silt in, however, they will die in there. They aren't that visible in the bay except on New Moons, so it's quite possible the pier lights could be turned off to accommodate the limited number of tourists who come to see the little dudes.
I've been told that the vacant property issue on the island is a tangled historic mess. Ask the St Croix Foundation about it.
Salt River is one good hurricane from being silted in. There's only about 6~ 6 1/2 feet of clearance into the bay.
A marsh pond? It would be terrible for Nat'l Park land to run its natural course, wouldn't it? Man-made or not, the Bio Bay is there now and a lot of people enjoy the impressive light show at every phase of the moon. The unusually high concentration of dinoflagellates (due to the constricted entry and tidal flow) are what make the bay special. A pier wouldn't necessarily affect them, but the increased flow from dredging would dissipate them and the accompanying lighting would overpower them. But I suspect you already know that.
When was the last time you were there?
Be on island next week too. Woot!
Have kayaked it many many times and hiked both sides of the bay.
Unlike Bio Bay which has a very narrow and very shallow inlet, and no substantial watershed feeding it like Triton and Sugar bays,, the larger SRB is quite unlikely to silt in by hurricane. The enviro damage report to SRB by Hugo is online at the links I previously posted.
There used to be a private dredge barge moored in Triton. Anybody know who and where it was used? I suspect it was at least used in the marina or to deepen the channel going back to the hurricane hole at the back of Triton.
Btw, I never saw a really "impressive" light show back there. It can be hit or miss.
To begin with, I deeply appreciate the degree of intellectual safety that has been established and promoted on this thread. It’s wonderful when people with diverging opinions can find common ground to debate in a respectful manner.
I completely understand that the MREC is not intended to be a tourist attraction. I have also been told that the MREC expects to attract twice the tourist traffic that the current visitor’s center on the other side of the bay, next to Columbus landing, currently draws. Perhaps someone can help me here, because as I recall, this number is enormous. It’s like 20,000-40,000 visitors a year. Now double that figure. The fundamental goal of the MREC may be for research and education, but this does not distract from its very significant function as a tourist attraction as well. I guess I don’t see the problem with this. OK, I see the problem with moving this many people in and out of Salt River on a regular basis, deeply compromising both the natural environment and the surrounding residential areas, but from the position of the project, it seems like attracting and accommodating tourism would be a great thing. Not only is it free publicity, promoting a positive image for NPS, it also attracts future funding.
Christiansted harbor is only 8 miles from SRB. It takes far less than 30-40 minutes to get there, which is why it is so reasonable for the dive boats to make the trip daily. Between Buck Island and the East End Marine park, it seems to me that the vast majority of NPS boar traffic is going East, not West. Is there a large NPS boat presence around Ham’s Bluff?
Yes, there is definitely a finite amount of space in C’sted harbor, but the same is also true of Bio Bay. The Bay is not that big and the MREC plan calls for accommodations for 6 boats, one of which is a 45 foot dive boat. It is hard to imagine all of these vessels fitting into Bio Bay. It is much easier to imagine them fitting into C’sted harbor. Sometimes I suspect that NPS wants to turn SRB into a local version of Pearl Harbor, packed with ships. It seems somewhere down the line NPS has tacked their own home base for all of their boats and operations onto the MREC plan.
Placing a large tax-exempt facility in C’sted cuts down on tax income, true. It’s also true that developing the park land of SRB would decrease property values all around the area. Decreased property values, of course, decreases tax income and also detours new investment and additional tax income. But this really isn’t the point. The real point, in my mind, is that our island is quickly sliding into a state of acute crisis. Between the loss of Hovensa and the failing economy, we are seeing more crime, more closing businesses, more people unable to afford electricity, and more people desperately moving off island. The amount of good that could come from putting the MREC in Christiansted is overwhelming. We need to empower the local people. Creating new business opportunities and jobs would do that. Creating a thriving downtown that we can all be proud of would do that. Putting a central emphasis on education and the opportunities it brings, would do that. In short, the economic benefits from having the MREC in Christiansted far outweigh the loss of property tax income. Property taxes are insanely low to begin with and think of all the other sources of tax revenue that would be generated instead with a thriving commercial center.
I may be naïve and optimistic, but I love this island and I feel a deep commitment to protect it and promote its health, both environmentally and culturally. Developing SRB is like mountaintop mining. Yes, it will give us something instead of nothing, but it also leaves a wake of destruction that hurts us more than it helps us in the long run. Our island is enriched by our protected land. It makes the rest of our land more valuable and desirable. It draws tourists, new residents, businesses, and investments. To take that away from us is to ghettoize St. Croix in the face of STJ and STT. Why would we want to further weaken our island when we have such a great opportunity to strengthen it?
What happened to “the good old days” when NPS activity was directed toward convincing the public that tax payer money should fund a government agency dedicated to keeping green spaces green and providing habitat for animals? Now it perversely seems like the people who disparage our park land the most are NPS representatives themselves. From what I hear, NPS would have us believe that the Salt River park land, which has never been built on, would be better off paved over and developed, that it’s wilderness is uninhabited by any significant animal, bird, or marine presence, that the glow of the Bio Bay is nothing to write home about . . . . This doesn’t even begin to touch upon the cultural significance. Purely from an environmental standpoint, I am distraught by this trend. I recently received a letter from an NPS higher up from Washington that goes so far as to attempt to disown the vary characterization and principles that accompany the title of “America’s Best Idea.” He literally tried to separate the NPS from that “label.” When I read this letter I was aghast. At this point I would not begin to presume to understand what the agenda and motivating forces behind NPS are today.
My agenda and motivating force is to promote the health, safety, and prosperity of our island. I believe this is the agenda shared by all of us who are lucky enough to call St. Croix home. As an island we are facing dark times, but we also have an opportunity to effect change for the better. I think MREC in Christiansted could be our light.
I too appreciate the polite give and take.
In answer to some of your thoughts:
1. The # of tourists at the west SRB building is vastly overstated. It's closed most of the time and few if any people visit it.
2. You state that putting the facility will 'deeply compromise" the land. Have you been on the east side of SRB? It's an eyesore. It's been dug into, built onto, bulldozed and neglected. It's a dump.
3. I've taken dive boats from Csted to SRB many many times. It's a 30 minute boat ride on a good day, and longer/rougher on the ride back during moderate and heavy seas.
4. The Reef systems of the west site are extremely important fisheries and need to be within reach of the researchers. There is no natural harbor in Fsted or boat dockage for research vessels. (And if they anchored one out there permanently they'd need to post a guard.)
5. Access and line of site to the facility will not be through Judith's Fancy.
6. Bio man-made Bay has room for 6 boats.
7. Your desire for Csted renewal and jobs is good. However, the solution is not college kids, Master's students and professors in zodiacs taking acres of valuable tax-paying Csted real estate off the tax roles. What Csted needs is something else, including, a reform of VI real estate laws and attitudes that would allow the govt to rebuild the ghettos they allow to exist (yes, ghettos).
8. As part of the proposal, several impact studies were done on the area. Many of your concerns have already been answered by those studies.
The biggest problem in SRB is the NEGLECT by the USVI. The NPS's presence will be a BOON to the study, maintenance, and upkeep of the area. It should raise a lot of awareness of the area's archaeological and preservation needs. To me, that outweighs concerns over bioluminescent algae (which again, are very common, not endangered).
Your concern for green space is admirable, but your point of view of the NPS' "animal centric" mission is not complete or current. The NPS also operates educational, research, and historic facilities. It is much more than a "land bank".
The NPS has been evolving its mission to STUDY the land and water it was created to protect in order to properly manage and preserve it. This requires facilities and researchers Thus, placing them at the point of attack seems reasonable.