Dear Mr. Stryker,
Four generations of my family loved Maho Bay Camps. Thousands of others say the same. Stanley Selengut’s pioneering eco-resort was a magical place. It made it possible for middle-class families, on a splurge, to visit the Caribbean, and to experience it in all its natural beauty.
Like you, the people who visited Maho Bay Camps are environmentalists. We loved the setting, but also the fact that we were enjoying it responsibly.
When the land beneath Maho Bay Camps went up for sale, it was clear that its destiny was with the National Park Service. Sixty years ago, Laurence Rockefeller donated the land to create the Virgin Islands National Park. Two-thirds of St. John is now National Park Service land. The park service’s campground, at Cinnamon Bay, is a short walk from Maho Bay and is booked solid.
But in Washington, our government is controlled by lawmakers who have imposed an unnecessary austerity. Though the $13.95 million you paid for the property is a mere rounding error in the federal budget, somehow the government missed the opportunity to buy this land.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Visit any national park these days and see how austerity has allowed America’s treasures to erode. Even on my last trip to Maho Bay in 2011, the signs along the national park’s Reef Bay Trail were so damaged by weather that you could no longer read them. The famed Lady Bird Johnson toilet was decaying.
Jokes aside, the National Park Service is the best caretaker for Maho Bay. As you know from your work at the Arcus Foundation, responsible eco-tourism is the key to preserving our environmental heritage. The park service knows how to balance preservation with recreation.
You still can make Maho Bay Camps’ destiny reality. You share much with Laurence Rockefeller. Like his family, yours prospered in America, and like him, you enjoy the fruits of that success. Like him, you are a philanthropist. It would be so fitting, on the 60th anniversary of his donation, for you to give the land you bought at Maho Bay to the United States.
This would ensure that the land is preserved for all time, that it remains natural and that the vital coral reefs along its shore are saved for future generations. It would be an act of such magnanimity that your name would be esteemed forever.
I, of course, would love for Maho Bay to again be a place where middle-class families like mine could enjoy the Caribbean. But most important to me is that the land be again opened for public use. I would be happy to see it be merely a place for hikers to explore. Just think of it, Mr. Stryker: It would be wonderful.
Sincerely, Shawn Zeller