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HomeNewsArchivesCOLE QUESTIONS LEGALITY OF LAGOON TOURS

COLE QUESTIONS LEGALITY OF LAGOON TOURS

Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole wants Licensing and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Andrew Rutnik to "scrutinize the legality" of the Friday and Saturday night ferry rides from restaurant to restaurant through the East End's mangrove lagoon.
The $5 ferry ride was the brainchild of a group of concerned citizens who are trying to raise money to clean up the lagoon.
Jimmy Loveland, spokesman for the group, told St. Thomas Source in January, "We must save this estuary for future generations to enjoy. This is a sensitive area and it must be cleaned up before permanent damage is done."
The lagoon is designated an area of particular concern.
The group has put a plan into place to host a high-profile promotion designed to raise needed funds, draw visitors and stimulate the economy in that area.
Cole thinks the effort is "another backdoor attempt to 'water taxi' on St. Thomas."
In a letter dated Jan. 31 to Rutnik, Cole said, "It is all well and good for the restaurateurs to say they hope to generate enough profit to contribute to clean up the adjacent mangrove and wildlife sanctuary. I'm all for that. However, this generous gesture can be done without circumventing the law or infringing on the rights of others licensed to perform a particular trade."
Loveland said the group, Mangrove Lagoon Association, has completed step one in their process by forming the nonprofit association.
When asked if the group has raised any money yet, Loveland said, "We're not at that stage yet. It's a two-step process. First you raise awareness, then you raise money."
With the weekend tours through the business section of the lagoon, Loveland said the awareness is being raised. He also said the tours have already spawned some "cottage industries" at Compass Point. Loveland hopes eventually to have artists and crafts people showing their work at the various marinas along the tour route.
The problems at Benner Bay and the lagoon were highlighted in December during a Planning and Environmental Committee hearing called to look at the problems in Benner Bay and the lagoon.
Committee Chair Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg called the area "sad and embarrassing." He said derelict vessels, illegal dumping, uncontrolled sewage, rusting appliances, rotting furniture, empty steel drums and other neglect have made the once beautiful area an eyesore.
Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Dean Plaskett said that DPNR has a management plan in the works that will be finished before the end of this fiscal year, October 2000. However, he said it will not be implemented until after the start of FY 2000.
The cleanup job will take about $100,000, he estimated.
Plaskett said that ideally, the owners of the derelict boats should pay for their removal, but locating these people is an almost impossible job – most of them have left the island, with no forwarding address.
Loveland said the association expects eventually to work with the government to clean up the lagoon. Other groups will join in the effort, too. Loveland said Rotary East is committed to cleaning up Cas Cay.
The ferry runs a continuous route through the business area of the lagoon on Friday and Saturday nights from 6 o'clock to midnight. The charge is $5 and includes two rum drinks.
Loveland said the ferry operator is fully licensed.
Associate memberships in the Mangrove Lagoon Association are $5. Money for cleanup will be raised with the membership and eventually with the sale of T-shirts at the businesses on the tour.
For details on the tours click here.

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