House Committee Asked to Support Castle Nugent National Historic Site in the Virgin Islands

Congress is being urged to take one of the longest-operating cattle ranches in the Virgin Islands and add it to the National Park System as a national historic site.

Under legislation considered Tuesday by the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, the Castle Nugent Farm on St. Croix would be acquired by the National Park Service and designated as a national historic site.

"The estate was one of 264 cotton and sugar plantations formed on the island of St. Croix after 1733, when the Danish West Indies Company first purchased the island from the French," said Olasee Davis, an extension assistant professor/extension specialist natural resources at the University of the Virgin Islands. "It was first farmed as early as 1738. Over the centuries, the farm has had many owners, one of them being Christopher Nugent, who bought the farm in 1774 and gave the estate its name. Castle Nugent Farms is one of the largest parcels of privately held land in the Virgin Islands and has been an operating cattle ranch for more than 50 years."

The current owners have run Senepol cattle, a unique breed developed in the island in the early 1900s, on the ranch, according to Mr. Davis. The land itself includes a Caribbean dry forest ecosystem, the largest barrier reef system in the Virgin Islands and perhaps the largest in the Caribbean, he added.

"The cultural resources are also another component of Castle Nugent Estate. This includes pre-Columbian sites and a large historic 17th Century Danish estate great house with other historic plantation buildings and ruins. In fact, the overseer house or great house is now listed on the National Register of Historical Places," Mr. Davis told the subcommittee. "The historical landscape of the property is another attraction and remains intact with its rolling hills, and open grassy shrub plains dropping to the Caribbean Sea. During the spring and fall seasons, the Castle Nugent Estate blanketed with Ginger Thomas (Tecoma stans) blossoms, the Virgin Islands official flowers and the landscape is alive with butterflies."