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National Parks Need Daily Media Coverage


If you wonder why national parks and protected areas need daily media coverage, look at the situation with the Caneel Bay Resort at Virgin Islands National Park.

In 1983, the late Laurance S. Rockefeller crafted and signed a "Retained Use Estate" that allowed for a private resort to operate on the northwestern edge of the island of St. John, at Caneel Bay, for 40 years free of charge. That RUE is set to expire in 2023.

Since as long ago as 2010, the National Park Service has been negotiating with CBI on a lease that would take effect after the RUE expires. But the private equity firm that controls the resort, Stoneleigh Capital, maintains that those talks have lacked substance. And last December, the company got U.S. Rep. Stacy Plaskett, D-Virgin Islands, to introduce legislation that goes against Mr. Rockefeller's wishes by extending his RUE by 60 years.

Why? Purportedly because of damage inflicted on the resort last fall by hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Five years, Stoneleigh Capital maintains, is just not enough time to repair the damage and burnish Caneel Bay Resort's $600+-a-night reputation. That sounds somewhat questionable. Stoneleigh Capital's CEO, Gary D. Engle, presented no photos or videos depicting the damage that would take more than five years to repair when he appeared before a House subcommittee that considered Rep. Plaskett's bill. And the Republican majority on the House Natural Resources Committee that stamped its approval on the legislation didn't ask for any evidence.

No other media outlet has covered this situation as in-depth as the Traveler. But we need your support to produce similarly insightful stories elsewhere across the National Park System, whether they involve questionable oversight by Congress, or focus on the wonders of the parks.

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