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Trust For Public Land Leverages Land Purchase for Virgin Islands National Park


Maho Bay, Virgin Islands National Park. Trust for Public Land photo by Steve Simonsen.

For roughly 47 cents on the dollar, Virgin Islands National Park is growing by more than 400 acres thanks to the efforts of the Trust for Public Land.

National Park Service officials long have eyed the 419 acres that rise up above Maho Bay, but have lacked the financial wherewithal to close the deal. That's where TPL stepped in.

The land was owned by Harvey Monroe Marsh. Back in the 1960s, he left the tract to his 11 grandchildren in equal shares. While the Park Service managed to acquire three of those shares in the 1970s, it has struggled to find a way to afford the others. TPL in 2003 picked up one of the outstanding shares, and in 2007 bought six of the outstanding shares to head off development of the property.

Under the purchase agreements, those who owned the shares will each be able to hold onto six acres on which two homes can be built. The lots are situated in such a way that this can be accomplished without cutting new roads to access the properties.

While TPL bought the shares for $19 million, it agreed to sell the land to the Park Service for $9 million, or roughly 47 cents on the dollar.

"It's an incredible bargain for the taxpayers," John Garrison, TPL's field office director for southwest Florida and the Caribbean, told the Virgin Islands Daily News.

The Park Service plans to pay TPL in quarterly payments -- the first $2.25 million is contained in the omnibus spending bill recently passed by Congress.

Once the land transfer is completed, the Park Service plans to improve an existing trail that runs from the beach to Centerline Road and also create a better parking area for beach access.


Once the land transfer is completed, the Park Service plans to...create a better parking area for beach access.

Does "better parking [s]lot[/s] area" really mean BIGGER parking [s]lot[/s]area?

Kudos to the TPL. All of that property could easily have been converted to major development, and based on the photo with the story, that would have been a shame.

Parking is an incredible problem at VIIS. There simply is not enough to meet demand. For instance, at the Reef Bay trailhead there's room for two, perhaps three Jeeps, depending on how they're parked. At Trunk Bay, the biggest, most popular beach, there's room for maybe a dozen or so cars.

At Maho Bay the "parking" is on wide spots along the road, and those "wide spots" seem to have been created over the years by Jeeps and other 4WDs simply pulling off the crusty asphalt pavement and onto the vegetation.

You can repeat those scenarios at Jumbie Bay (room for four Jeeps), Leinster Bay (there is a small parking area for those visiting the Annaberg ruins, but the overflow crowds the narrow road), Lameshur Bay (if you make the effort to reach this bay, and it ain't easy, there's room for about a dozen cars in the identified parking area), and Salt Pond Bay (find a spot somewhere along the road). About the only ones that have even somewhat reasonable parking -- perhaps 30 spots -- are Hawksnest and Cinnamon bays.

There are plenty of public taxis -- long, bus-like, open-air rigs with multiple rows of seating -- but most seem to stop running to and from the beaches around 4:30 p.m. - 5 p.m.

For a park of only about 7000 acres, one that attracts roughly 500,000 visitors a year, this situation is woefully inadequate. Does that mean that parking lots sprawling across dozens of acres at each beach are needed? No, and from the looks of things that wouldn't be practical, anyway.

But unless the park moves to a mandatory shuttle system -- which would seem fairly feasible along the Northshore Road that hits the most popular beaches -- even a little more organized parking would go a long, long way to meeting demand AND preserving resources. Right now the resources are getting pounded in many places from illegal parking.

Thanks for the extra details, Kurt.

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