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Caneel Bay Resort Property to Become National Park

Caneel Bay Resort, located on St. John’s famed North Shore, was once one of the Caribbean’s premier resorts.

It’s taken 2,420 days for me to write something positive about the shuttered Caneel Bay Resort property, and I can finally do it today – on Earth Day of all days. I am happy to share that the 150-acre Caneel Bay property will become part of the Virgin Islands National Park. This decision follows a nearly two-year federal court battle over land ownership rights, and it will hopefully clear the path for rebuilding the shuttered resort.

Judge Cheryl Ann Krause granted the United States of America’s motion for summary judgement last Thursday, stating that the “title to the resort’s land remains with the United States, and title to the improvements thereon shall be conveyed and transferred to the Department of the Interior forthwith.” This document was made available to the public Monday.

A little bit of background for those of you who may be new to this story…

Caneel Bay was a picturesque resort located in St. John between Cruz Bay and Hawksnest Bay. The 150-acre resort opened on the same day that the Virgin Islands National Park opened in 1956. Caneel Bay Resort was opened by Laurance Rockefeller, a man who is also credited with establishing the Virgin Islands National Park thanks to a 5,000-acre land donation. The resort was destroyed, however, in September 2017 when Hurricane Irma barreled through the islands, and has remained shuttered ever since.

The resort and the land it sits on were supposed to convey to the Virgin Islands National Park last fall, but that did not happen due to a federal court case filed by EHI Acquisitions – the company that operated the hotel until Hurricane Irma. The lawsuit, filed in June 2022, claimed the land, buildings and improvements at Caneel Bay should be theirs due to a clause in an Indenture created by Rockefeller himself. The lawsuit hinged on the word “offer,” specifically whether there should be a dollar amount attached to one. EHI believed they should receive $70 million in exchange for the buildings and improvements, hence their “offer,” while the United States disagreed.

The judge determined that the term offer “unambiguously means an offer to convey the improvements free of charge.” And with that, she ruled in favor of the United States of America. This means that the 150-acre property should become part of the Virgin Islands National Park, but it likely will not be that easy.

I reached out to EHI’s attorneys Monday afternoon, and they said they plan to appeal. “EHI is disappointed in the ruling,” attorney Julien Adams told me by phone. This appeal could perhaps tie up the property even longer.

I reached out to the government’s attorneys, as well as the superintendent of the Virgin Islands National Park Monday afternoon, but have yet to hear back. Therefore, I am uncertain how this ruling will affect ZoZo’s, the restaurant that operates at Caneel Bay, or the Caneel Bay Beach Club, which operates at Honeymoon Beach. I am also uncertain whether cleanup will commence soon, or if it will be put on hold pending the appeal.

The National Park Service announced its plans to rebuild the resort last summer, pending the outcome of the federal court case. Its plan is to rebuild the hotel, which would not exceed 166 rooms, the same number it had prior to the storm. It also plans to expand public access, including concessions, watersports rentals, public restrooms and showers, picnic tables, etc. Click here to read more about the National Park’s plan to rebuild Caneel Bay. 

And for those of you who enjoy reading court documents as much as I do, you can click here to read Judge Kraus’s decision in its entirety. 

As always, I will keep you posted on all of this. Happy Earth Day everyone. 🌎

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  1. Joel Hade

    Wonderful news! Of course the greedy EHI will appeal trying to wheedle money out of the gov’t, but this victory is a great first step!

  2. jim fackert

    oops, i guess not. The insurance money that the past operators received for the hurricane damage, and never spent on repairing the resort as they were obligatedtois also rightfully national park property, and should be added to the judgement.
    the past operators have no reasonable argument to claim any of it.

  3. Caron Trese

    So the govt plans to build it up? When has govt done anything under budget and practical?
    I see another Maho and neurotic mishandling

    • Joe Martino

      I would much prefer Caneel under the jurisdiction of the NPS versus any private developer. Particularly when that developer was looking for a huge handout. This is good news. Let’s hope it works out for the best.

  4. Pingback:EHI Wants Judge to Reconsider Decision Awarding Caneel Bay to National Park - Explore STJ

  5. Pingback:Things are Happening at Caneel Bay! - Explore STJ

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