Efforts by the Trust for Public Land continue to grow the size of Virgin Islands National Park a bit at a time, with the trust recently transferring 58 acres to the park at Maho Bay.
Because the National Park Service does not always have cash on hand to pay for acquisitions, TPL often will purchase tracts from willing sellers, and then transfer it to the Park Service when funds are available.
Back in 2009, for instance, the trust acquired more than 400 acres along Maho Bay with plans to sell it to the national park over time.
"This is success story on a number of levels,” Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said of the recent transfer. “The Trust for Public Land has been out front on Maho Bay, preserving important lands and keeping them undeveloped.”
Trust for Public Land CEO Will Rogers said, "The beach at Maho Bay is now protected in perpetuity for the many thousands of visitors and island residents who enjoy the beach each year."
The 58 acres, covered by an upland tropical forest, will never be developed, Mr. Rogers added.
“A resort hotel and hundreds of condominiums could have been built there so you can see how critical this project is to the long-term integrity of Virgin Islands National Park," he added.
The $2.25 million purchase for the 58 acres was completed with funds from the Land and Water conservation Fund – fees paid to the government as a result of offshore oil and gas leasing. Additional payments are to be made down the road.
“That’s another success story,” Director Jarvis said in a prepared statement. “The National Park Service has been able to purchase park in-holdings – privately held land within national park boundaries – from willing sellers and in many instances, TPL bought the land and held it until we received LWCF funding.”
Mr. Rogers said the Maho Bay area has a greater value as undeveloped parkland where it will continue to benefit native plant and animal species and serve as a spectacular place for reflection and recreation for park visitors. The land purchase also connects the east and west sides of Virgin Islands National Park for the first time.
According to the St. John Source, TPL is holding another 74-acre tract until the Park Service can afford to purchase it.