Nearly six years after Hurricane Irma destroyed Caneel Bay, the National Park Service has announced that it intends to rebuild the renowned resort.
The National Park Service released a Finding of No Significant Impact decision document last week, which details the Park’s plan to restore commercial overnight accommodations and expand public access at Caneel Bay. The report doesn’t detail too much about the intended accommodations other than to say that “visitors will be provided an overnight experience commensurate with storied legacy and site history of Caneel Bay.” It goes on to say that it will be a twenty-first-century eco-resort.
The number of rooms at the new resort will not exceed the previous lodging capacity of 166 rooms. It will continue to be a low-density, landscape-sensitive resort.
Public access will be expanded to include Caneel Beach and Little Caneel Beach. This is the area on each side of the dock, which can be seen from the Caneel Bay overlook on North Shore Road. Public access will continue at Honeymoon Beach. These day-use areas will have public restrooms and showers, picnic tables, food and beverage offerings, and non-motorized watersports rentals. Visitors can access these areas via roads and trails.
Regarding access to Turtle Bay Beach, Scott Beach, Paradise Beach, and Hawksnest Beach (north), “access will continue to be permitted along shoreline areas specified in the USVI Open Shoreline Act and will be determined in consultation with the USVI Department of Planning and Natural Resources.”
A few more areas of note:
- Historic areas on site will be restored and/or rehabilitated.
- Interpretive programs will be developed to tell the story of the Caneel Bay area.
- The plan calls to reestablish the Turtle Point and Hawksnest Trails.
- Employee housing will be built onsite.
- An onsite farmers’ market and wellness facilities may also be included.
- There is a potential area for community meeting space, an amphitheater, and/or community gardens.
This all comes with a caveat, however. As I told you all last month, the National Park Service is currently in a messy legal battle with the current operators of Caneel Bay. EHI Acquisitions (the company that currently holds the retained use agreement that allowed it to operate the Caneel Bay Resort) filed a federal lawsuit against the United States back in June 2022 that asked the court to declare EHI as the owner of all right, title and interest to the Caneel Bay property. The United States is fighting the lawsuit and stated it “defies logic and common sense.” A trial is scheduled for October 16th.
Should the United States prevail in that lawsuit, the National Park Service will put out a request for proposal regarding the redevelopment of Caneel Bay. The developer and operators will be selected through a competitive commercial services process, and the bidder’s ability to meet the National Park Service’s sustainability goals will be determined during evaluations.
In the meantime, we wait.
The National Park Service took into account public feedback when making its decision. I was surprised to learn that only 1,122 comments were submitted during the open comment period. Of those, only 152 were submitted by Virgin Islands residents. Numerous comments and the National Park’s response are included in the Finding of No Significant Impact decision document. Click here to read that document.
There’s a lot going on here, and I’m fairly certain that we have a long road ahead. As always, I’ll keep you posted.
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