Shaping the future of Caneel Bay together
Virgin Islands Daily News Op Ed / Nigel Fields, St. John, is the superintendent of the National Park Service
I offer a heartfelt “thank you” to all who have submitted comments and suggestions regarding the future of Caneel Bay.
After 40 years of operation, the “Retained Use Estate” at Caneel Bay will expire on Sept.30, 2023. The National Park Service feels that it is critically important for the public to have a voice in what happens next, which is why we’ve reached out to you. Since opening the public comment period on the conceptual range of preliminary alternatives for Caneel Bay’s redevelopment on Jan. 18, 2022, we have received a wide, exciting range of ideas and suggestions. The public comment period ended March 4, with more than 700 correspondences received — a tangible testament of your investment in the future of Caneel Bay and St. John.
The summary of the feedback we received is now available online at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/CaneelBayRedevelopment. Each of your suggestions was reviewed and is being considered as we continue to move forward in the planning process.
As you may recall, we first asked the public in April 2021 about Caneel’s future. Among the many ideas we heard were:
• A need for greater public access to Caneel Bay’s natural and cultural treasures
• Opportunities for local hiring at all levels and greater corporate stewardship from any commercial entity
• Protection of the natural and cultural resources
• A focus on environmental sustainability and resilience
• A desire to interpret the deep history of the site, including the 1733 revolt
These insights, among the many other comments we received, directly shaped and are reflected within the preliminary alternatives that are now being refined.
Since January 2022, we have engaged territorial and federal agency partners who have regulatory jurisdiction or consulting responsibilities. We have also heard from members of the Virgin Islands business community, which is aware of the economic engine Caneel Bay might spark. Community organizations and churches on St. John have assisted with engaging their members and congregations by sharing the Caneel Bay Redevelopment and Management Plan newsletter. We have heard from hundreds of individuals, businesses, and organizations these last 10 months. Collectively, this has been Virgin Islands National Park’s largest public engagement effort ever.
The NPS does not have a specific desired outcome. Thus, your engagement is directly informing each step we’re taking. Consider the positive impact you’ve had since April 2021: Your comments helped refine the ongoing environmental investigation at Caneel Bay. Your insights and experiences informed the NPS decision to advance a competitive process if commercial activity returns to Caneel Bay. And from your suggestions, we crafted the preliminary alternatives we shared with you in January 2022 for further feedback. With your help we expect this collaborative approach will grow in the months ahead as we continue our dialogue with the community, agency partners, local organizations, and Virgin Islands businesses.
Within the next four to six weeks, the NPS expects to share the latest environmental sampling results and cleanup plan. Later this year, we expect to release the environmental assessment that will lead towards a decision on the future of Caneel Bay — a decision that will be informed by your input. The public will have an opportunity to comment on both the environmental sampling results and the environmental assessment.
— Nigel Fields, St. John, is the superintendent of the National Park Service.
More information on Caneel can be found on the Friends website at https://friendsvinp.org/caneel-bay/