The National Park Service on Monday announced the launch of a new formal process to plan for the redevelopment of Caneel Bay at Virgin Islands National Park on St. John.
“This is an important first step in envisioning a Caneel Bay that is fully integrated with the park and is a source of pride for St. John,” said Nigel Fields, superintendent, Virgin Islands National Park, in a news release. “Steeped in cultural heritage and natural resources, Caneel Bay offers NPS an opportunity to better showcase the full splendor of St. John.”
An NPS planning team is focusing its early priorities on framing the stewardship, community and operational objectives for redevelopment. NPS will then work to define the project scope more completely, conduct a comprehensive environmental assessment and outline the site’s commercial, recreational and preservation areas, according to the release.
Planning in this initial phase will lead to a potential range of concepts to be made available for public comment this winter, the release stated.
“We are taking the community’s ideas and concerns very seriously and value this input as we work together to determine the best future for Caneel Bay. We commit to keeping the public informed of our progress throughout the planning process,” said Fields.
The NPS announced in July that the lease for the Caneel Bay Resort would be put out for public bid. The iconic resort on St. John’s world-renowned north shore has remained closed since it sustained serious damage from hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.
CBI Acquisitions LLC controls the lease for Caneel Bay Resort through September 2023 under a retained use estate – a unique arrangement crafted by Laurance S. Rockefeller in 1983, setting aside the 150-acre resort for independent operation and management, according to the NPS announcement in July. That agreement will remain in place until its expiration on Sept. 30, 2023, when the NPS will assume full responsibility.
During public hearings held earlier this year on the future of Caneel Bay, most participants said they were eager to protect the natural and cultural resources, including ancient Taino sites that have not been researched. Several people suggested that a museum should be built on the property.
Participants also suggested other uses, including projects and partnerships to promote educational opportunities for Virgin Islands youth, specifically in agriculture and the hospitality industry. Re-creating the resort as a model of eco-tourism design also was proposed.
Others suggested opening the property for greater public access, saying that over the past 10 years with CBIA as the managers, public access has been increasingly limited.
The planning kick-off announced on Monday also coincides with the continuation of environmental testing at Caneel Bay to address data gaps cited in the Engineering Evaluation and Cost Analysis report, released in September.
Among other inquiries, the EE/CA addendum will address potential groundwater contamination not previously analyzed due to weather conditions and seek to determine whether hazardous levels of lead or asbestos have been released to the environment.
Recommendations stemming from the addendum are expected to be considered next summer once findings have been analyzed, issued for public input and finalized, according to Monday’s news release. The current data gaps will not delay environmental cleanup and removal actions outlined in an Action Memorandum published to the Caneel Bay EE/CA project website last month, the release stated.
Current information about the NPS redevelopment of Caneel Bay and related environmental investigations and actions is available on the NPS website.