Trust transfers final parcel of Maho Bay to V.I. National Park


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ST. THOMAS - The final 74-acre parcel of Maho Bay has been officially transferred from the Trust for Public Lands to the V.I. National Park.

With the last transfer, the park now owns Maho Bay beach and the entire hillside surrounding the bay - a total of 225 acres.

"This represents the completion of a multi-year process," said John Garrison, the senior project manager for the Trust for Public Lands in Southwest Florida and the Caribbean. "It's now cumulated and complete, and the beach is protected and the land is protected."

In 2009, the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit conservation organization, bought the property for $18 million. The organization then sold the property to the National Park Service for 50 cents on the dollar, and the park paid $9 million total in several installments over several years.

The federal funding to buy the property from the trust came from the Land and Water conservation Fund, which collects money from oil companies that drill on government-owned submerged land.

"We finally got some of that for the Virgin Islands. It's the first time we've ever tapped into that fund," Garrison said.

The plant-covered hillside has remained pristine while the ownership and development rights for the land have been sorted out in the territory's legal system.

In the 1960s, Harvey Monroe Marsh left the massive parcel of land in Maho Bay and Estate Usher's Cay to his 11 grandchildren. The heirs did not get specific parcels; they instead inherited 11 equal interests to the entire property.

The V.I. National Park purchased three of the interests in 1970.

The Trust for Public Land purchased one interest in 2003.

After a New York financier expressed interest in purchasing the property for development in 2006, the community rallied to protect the land.

In 2007, The Trust for Public Land purchased six of the remaining interests in the property. One was kept by one of the heirs. According to the deal between the trust and the heirs, each of them kept a 6-acre lot. Up to two homes can be built on each lot.

The addition to the park is the largest since the 1956 donation of land to the government by Laurence Rockefeller that created the V.I. National Park on St. John.

"The beach and hillside at Maho may well be paradise, and can now be enjoyed by everyone who comes to this wonderful American park," Trust for Public Land President Will Rogers said in a prepared statement.

The new acquisition does not include Maho Bay Campground, which was sold to a private buyer for $13.5 million in December 2012.

In 2009, an attempt was made by the Trust for Public Land to purchase the Maho Bay campground property - which is bordered on all sides by V.I. National Park land - but negotiations fell through.

The trust has been involved in several other land donations to the park, including Nanny Point, the 2.2 acre parcel owned by ecotourism pioneer Stanley Selengut, who donated the land to the park through The Trust for Public Land.

The Trust for Public Land assisted in funding the renovation of Roosevelt Park on St. Thomas and currently is working with the federal government to turn 1,400 acres in Castle Nugent, St. Croix, into a new national park.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

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