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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, May 30, 2023
HomeNewsArchivesTrust Raising Money to Buy Maho Bay Camps

Trust Raising Money to Buy Maho Bay Camps

Florida-based Trust for Public Land is raising money to buy the 14 acres of land at Maho Bay, St. John where Maho Bay Camps sits.
"Hopefully, we’ll have a campground for many more years to come," John Garrison of the Trust said Thursday.
The property was on the market for $28 million, but Garrison said it’s no longer being advertised for sale.
While it’s going to take big bucks to fund the purchase, Garrison said small donations – "$100, $25" – will help. Right now, the funds being raised will help with appraisal and legal fees and towards a down payment if negotiations are successful.
However, once a price is negotiated with the owners, Giri-Giri Corp., a company made up of three families that bought the land decades ago, major funding will be needed.
The Trust has a track record with these types of projects on St. John through its purchase of 415 acres at Estate Maho Bay.
To fund the Estate Maho Bay purchase, Garrison said the organization borrowed the money from a lender that deals with conservation issues. The federal government is appropriating money to repay the Trust for the purchase. He said a similar deal could be worked out for Maho Bay Camps.
Garrison said the Trust just conveyed the first 28 acres of Estate Maho Bay land to the National Park Service because federal funding to pay for that much land became available. The rest will be turned over to the park service as more federal funding is available.
Selengut said that once the price on Maho Bay Camps is firmed up, he can help by doing things like paying his $400,000 a year rent in advance. There are many scenarios with Selengut’s idea, including paying up to 10 years rent in advance or paying half the rent for 10 years.
Additionally, he said he might offer a program where guests who make a donation to help buy the property get free nights at the campground.
Selengut has leased the land since 1974, building a renowned eco campground on the site. The lease expires in January 2012, but if negotiations fail, the campground will close in July 2011 to give Selengut time to shut down operations.
That said, Selengut said there are several reasons why it would behoove Geri-Geri to sell to the Trust. For starters, he said V.I. National Park owns the beach at Maho Bay Camps, so it would be unlikely it would allow a major development at that location.
And, Selengut said that Maho Bay Camps holds an Economic Development Commission package that exempts it from real estate taxes on the campground improvements. That exemption will not carry over when Selengut closes Maho Bay Camps so Geri-Geri will have to start paying taxes on the improvements even if they don’t run it as a campground.
Additionally, the upkeep on the property is immense, Selengut said. He said that crews continually replace rotten boards and pressure wash "slimy" boardwalks to keep the property safe for guests.
"Once we abandon it, the jungle will take over and the tents will deteriorate in no time," he said.
Selengut also spoke about the loss to the Virgin Islands if Maho Bay closes.
"I think it’s about $20 million a year in total cash flow to the island," he said.
According to Selengut, Maho Bay spends about $5 million to $6 million a year locally on food alone. Then there’s the money guests spend on taxi fares, ferry fares and more.
The Trust has set up a website to accept donations for its purchase of Maho Bay Camps. Those interested can visit http://www.tpl.org/tier3_cd.cfm?content_item_id=23042&folder_id=3388.

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