I find the proposed floating restaurant and bar off Grass Cay by Cowgirl Bebop LLC. to be alarming and disconcerting. It is of absolute necessity that we, as a community, sift through this plan with the finest of combs and really see how this could be of detriment to our long-term goals. It is also important that officials residing in St. Thomas and St. Croix who have major influence over St. John affairs, pay deep attention to a part of the VI that is often misunderstood and misrepresented.
The proposed streamlining of CZM processes shows the great contradiction that lies in the idea of St. John’s preservation. Our role in Virgin Islands’ tourism product has always been one of serene and uninterrupted natural beauty. Commercial ventures such as the floating barge proposed by Cowgirl Bebop LLC. and others like it, including the Lime Out floating taco bar on the East End of St. John, are the beginning of the end of any agency we have over what is left of our diminishing resources.
The prioritization of bars and lazy leisure only highlights the lack of vision for what St. John and the territory at large can offer in terms of tourism driven projects and endeavors. With what seems to be more happy hours per capita than the rest of the Virgin Islands, Cruz Bay does not need the added concerns of what happens when alcohol and the ocean mix. There is a level of urgency that has become apparent to keep tourists in USVI waters, but another floating bar just highlights our desperation rather than any innovation or creativity in the area of tourism.
Currently, there is a video circulating on social media of two transplant men fighting in the streets in Cruz Bay. The fight is spilling out from a popular bar for tourists, one of three bars less than twenty yards from the Julius E. Sprauve School. I find this video to be important to the larger conversation because it exemplifies a gross lack of regard for the people of St. John but most importantly for the children of St. John as opposed to the importance we place on business and enterprise, especially when alcohol is a main component of said enterprise.
If these adults while under the influence of alcohol, which is a common sight on the whole of St. John, cannot control themselves in such proximity to our schools (and the police station which is also twenty yards away), why should we trust hordes of boaters to act safely and responsibly near protected waters, sensitive ecosystems or anywhere for that matter?
Allowing Cowgirl Bebop to moor in these waters would just further express a lack of care we have for our own home. I argue that tourism succeeds best when tourists visit a place that they see is held in high regard by the people living there. This mutual respect fosters lasting relationships and mutual care.
As a St. Johnian, parts of my family originate from the Cays at the center of this discussion and the East End of the island, where I, and my family, have witnessed first-hand the impacts of The Lime Out floating taco boat. I watched East End transform from the quietest residential area to a loud and trafficked quarter where visitors would not leave until evening, often driving the forty-minute drive back to Cruz Bay intoxicated.
We are not anti-enterprise or anti-fun, for that matter. We are pro-safety, pro-responsibility and most importantly pro-respect. If the business and recreation cannot align with these values, then I argue that we absolutely do not need them and will fight against them.
Savannah Lyons-Anthony of St. John