Our hearts are full of amazement and love for the people of the Virgin Islands that came out in support to Save Mandahl Bay. On March 5, 2009 a remarkable CZM hearing took place at the Lockhart School. But this groundswell of support started years ago. Scores of people have written letters to the editor, testified at hearings, hung posters, made telephone calls, sold t-shirts, paid for advertising out of their pockets, met with senators, haunted the halls of CZM and DPNR, calls, letters and more calls and letters.
The Friends of Mandahl never gave up. Our faith and support was shaken with the terrible murder of Jack Diehl on February 8. Jack was one of the most outspoken Friends of Mandahl. He was passionate about saving this beautiful Bay and Salt Pond for generations to come. Jack was there with us in spirit on March 5th and again on March 26 where the CZM decision hearing became a resounding victory for the People of the Virgin Islands. Janice Hodge, Director of CZM presented the staff report which concluded with a recommendation to deny the permit application for the Port of Mandahl. The CZM Committee Members, after reviewing the 55+ pages of that detailed Staff Report, voted 4-1 to deny the permit applications! Victory is ours. We are closer than ever to protecting Mandahl Bay and our Salt Pond forever. Please remember, this Salt Pond is Government land. We must return it to the People of the VI.
Thank you to everyone in the VI that helped achieve this goal. A huge thank you to CZM Staff members and Committee members that waded through tons of technical materials and listened to hours of testimony from citizens such as you, and spent hours reviewing information in order to make their informed decision. And from the West End Alliance to the Red Hook Community Alliance, to EAST, the League of Women Voters, The Friends of Inner Brass, The Friends of Christmas Cove, the Bordeaux Farmers, the fisherman, the marine biologists, St. John residents, Coral Bay Community Council, Ollasee Davis and others on St. Croix, that wrote amazing letters, testified, spoke out and called us with support throughout the past years, thank you. A huge shout out to the Daily News and The Source that gave the citizens of the VI a forum for their letters and dialogue. Please remember, especially in these difficult economic times, that the space in the Letters to the Editor is free to you, but not to the news outlets. So please support them. And a special thank you to The Daily News for the amazing editorial that appeared in the days before the decision meeting asking CZM to protect and save Mandahl Bay and Thatch Cay.
Our jobs are not done. We must remain vigilant and proactive as our shores and cays are under siege. But if anything, this huge movement to Save Mandahl Bay demonstrated that when we, the entire VI, come together for a good thing we can effect change, we can work together, shoulder to shoulder, heart to heart.
Please join us at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, April 25, 2009 at Mandahl Bay for a clean-up and community morning. Bring your swimsuits and snorkels and enjoy this pristine bay. Anna and Justin Francis will give you a tour of Camp Umoja, the eco-camp bordering the Salt Pond. Meet new friends and see old friends. We are the Virgin Islands! Thank you on behalf of The Friends of Mandahl Bay!
Sharon Hupprich and Anna Francis
Friends of Mandahl/St. Thomas
Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to firstname.lastname@example.org.