“The 2013 Environmental Assessment was prepared for the National Park Service to evaluate the proposed relinquishment of the Caneel Bay Resort Retained Use Estate Indenture Agreement (RUE) and award of a long-term lease of the RUE property (and certain property associated with the RUE) to be entered into by NPS and the owner of the relinquished RUE,” the report states. “Public Law 111-261, signed by the President in 2010, expressly authorizes NPS to enter into this transaction, provided that, under the lease, as stated in the law, the general character of the Caneel Bay Resort must remain unchanged during the lease term, including a prohibition against any increase in the overall size of the resort and any increase in the number of guest accommodations available at the resort. In addition, as required by the law, such a lease must include provisions that ensure the protection of the natural, cultural, and historic features of the resort and associated property, consistent with the laws and policies applicable to property managed by NPS.”
So basically, this assessment was performed to see the impacts a lease would have on the Caneel Bay property and what the impacts would be if a RUE continued. The alternative is that the Park take control of the land.
One interesting that I read, which really doesn’t have much to do with the current Caneel situation, is how they mentioned potentially paving the Lind Point Trail from the National Park Visitor’s Center in Cruz Bay to Honeymoon beach to make it ADA compliant. I personally would love to see that happen as a momma who has very few shady places to walk her nearly one-year-old son.
Ok, but back to Caneel… There’s a lot of pages to get through, so let’s get right to it!
Today is the first day of summer … yahoo! And with summer, here on St. John, comes the dust, and the dust is currently here in force.
For those of you who regularly watch the webcams, you may have noticed a bit of a haze in the picture today and over the last couple of days. That haze is actually dust, dust that came all the way from the Saharan Desert in Africa. It’s something that happens each summer, and it’s supposed to help keep hurricanes away. So it’s a welcomed thing of sorts.
The dust occurs when an increase of warm air causes sand particles to rise above the desert. Those particles are then transported over the Atlantic Ocean and across to the Caribbean. When the dust arrives in the territory, the islands’ typical bright blue skies are replaced by a haze. Visibility is reduced, and the air quality becomes poor. It also becomes very hot, something those of you on island may have also noticed over the past few days.
Here’s a better explanation that Eleanor Gibney gave us back in 2015:
“What we are seeing is the effects of desertification as the Sahara has been spreading south. The fine particles of soil from formerly fertile lands are easily blown off, unlike heavier sand particles. The process accelerated in the past 40 years, prior to that visible dust was never noted in the VI.”
The first satellite image shows the amount of dust that’s currently near the Territory. The second shows the amount that will be here Monday. The swath isn’t as large, but it will still be here.
When the dust arrives, I usually get questions asking how long it arrives. That’s hard to answer other than to say that it comes and goes. Your best bet it to check the forecast using this link. One great thing about the dust is that it makes for great sunsets. So be sure to check out those webcams around 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. as sunset is currently at 6:58 p.m. EST.
That’s all we have for you today. “News” you can use! Have a great Friday everyone!
I have great news for those of you who enjoying watching St. John live each and everyday… our webcam is FINALLY back up and running! We finally figured out the problem – we had some minor interference from a neighbor’s wifi connection – and now that we fixed that, the webcam should be streaming live 24/7 once again! Phew!
Our webcam is placed above Great Cruz Bay, so there is a great view of the Westin, the bay and beyond. We have great sunset views too! During the winter months, the sun sets directly in front of the camera, which is beautiful! It’s currently setting off to the right of the screen. Tonight’s sunset is 6:58 p.m. for those of you wanting to check it out.
Construction has begun at the former Da Livio space.
Hello everyone and happy Wednesday! A few weeks ago, we told you that Da Livio was closing and a new steakhouse was set to take its place. Well today we have all the details, and we’re eager to share them with all of you!
Construction has already begun over at Dave & Jerry’s Island Steakhouse, which will be located on the first floor of the Cruz Bay Hotel. The owners are currently working to create an outdoor bar area that will feature lively entertainment. The inside area is being transformed as well, and will be a completely different vibe than that at Da Livio once completed. The ceilings are being lowered to reduce the noise, for example, and the space will feature a community table serviced exclusively by a chef. Guests who reserve a spot at this community table will be able to meet with the chef prior to their reservation to arrange a menu complete with a custom-paired wine list. The owners are hoping to create a space where diners eat together and make new friends, which is becoming popular in the states, they said.
Dave & Jerry’s Island Steakhouse will feature 45-day dry-aged prime angus beef. In addition, there will be fresh local seafood and produce, as well as a global selection of artisan cheeses and charcuteries. It will also feature an Old World-inspired craft cocktail program and a top-notch wine list. Consulting on the project is Buddy Stone, who previously owned Knox & Ollie’s at the Westin. Buddy currently operates a specialty food service company.
Here is a preview of some of the menu items:
The Cheese Block: Choose from a worldly selection of artisan cheeses, marmalade of the day, spicy smoked almonds, grilled baguette.
Oysters: Fresh on the half shell
Baked Rockefeller: Roasted in giardiniera butter
Cast Iron Spanish Octopus: Served with herb fingerling potatoes, Iberico chorizo, roasted red pepper emulsion, lemon cracked black pepper aioli
House dry-aged beef tartare: Served with mustard greens, pickled red onion, caper berries, grain mustard Caesar, sea salt chips, Parmigiano Reggiano
Pan seared jumbo scallops: Served with wild mushroom duxelle, crispy parsnips, white truffle drizzle, pancetta dust
Duck fat fried sweet potato gnocchi: Served with candied pecans, baby spinach, Aussie sheep feta, balsamic drizzle
Fresh local Caribbean lobster bisque: Served with cool chive cream, house focaccia croutons
For those of you who are lucky enough to be on island during this year’s Festival festivities, the 2019 Festival music lineup has been announced. The music starts on Friday, June 28th and continues through Tuesday, July 4th. Here is the lineup in its entirety:
And here is the schedule of the remaining Festival events:
Saturday, June 22: Queen Pageant – 8 p.m. at the National Park ball field
Sunday, June 23: Food Fair and Coronation – 1 p.m. at Franklin Powell Park
Sunday, June 23: Boat Race – 3 p.m. in Cruz Bay harbor
Friday, June 28: Festival Village opens at 7 p.m.
Saturday, June 29: Children’s Village opens at 6 p.m. The Children’s Village will be located in the National Park parking lot.
Wednesday, July 3: Emancipation Program – 1 p.m.
Wednesday, July 3: Festival Torch Parade – 6 p.m.
Thursday, July 4: J’ouvert – Begins at Sunrise
Thursday, July 4: Festival Parade begins at 11 a.m.
Thursday, July 4: Fireworks over Cruz Bay harbor – 9 p.m.
Saturday, July 6: Festival Music Mixup – 9 p.m. at the National Park ball field
Sunday, July 7: Festival Poker Run – Starts at noon in Cruz Bay harbor
Hello everyone and happy Monday! We have some good news to share with those of you who will be traveling to St. John soon … Hibiscus Cafe at the airport on St. Thomas has reopened, and it looks great!
Now let’s be honest. the St. Thomas airport isn’t the most desirable airport to spend time at due to its very limited options in terms of dining and shopping. The situation has been pretty bad since the 2017 hurricanes when the airport sustained significant damage. Since then, only a few food kiosks and a makeshift bar have been open. Well that all recently changed.
Hibiscus Cafe is open and features a full bar, grill area, and a grab and go section of prepared foods. It’s been renovated from top to bottom, and it looks very nice. Check out a few pics:
The small book store and gift shop remain closed. There is a pop-up retail area in the center of the airport waiting lounge. The restrooms are also being renovated. The men’s room is currently closed in the waiting area; men must use the restroom in the Spirit waiting area. The women’s room in the main area remains open.
“News” you can use today, folks! Have a great one!
Sloop Jones stands with Liliana Martinez. Liliana interviewed Sloop for this story for NOSJ.
Hello everyone and happy Friday! We have such happy news to share with you all today. We’re a tad late on sharing this story, but nonetheless, it’s a great one and timeless in our eyes. Sloop Jones is once again creating his unique art here on St. John… How fantastic is that??!
Sloop has created hand-painted clothes and art out of his home and studio on St. John’s East End for the past 30 years. His art is very recognizable, as it has a tie-dye look of sorts. Like many, Sloop’s home sustained significant damage during Hurricane Irma. His art studio was completely destroyed, so Sloop was forced to put his artwork on hold while repairs were made. For 20 months, Sloop did not create any art at all with the exception of jazzing up a satellite dish or two here and there. (Sloop’s side business is satellite installation. You can see one of his painted dishes atop Skinny Legs in Coral Bay.)
Back in April, Sloop was finally able to return to his art, signaling yet another step to normalcy for our island residents. Sloop is continuing to operate out of his house, and has even started his painting workshops once again. For $125 per person (Or $100 per person for groups of two or more), Sloop will teach you painting techniques and guide you in creating your own wearable piece of art. He isn’t keeping set hours at his store on the East End (located on the same property as his home), but it is available by appointment. Sloop sells everything from t-shirts and rash guards to signs and pillowcases for your home. Prices range from $9 and up.
For more information or to schedule a workshop, please visit Sloop’s website at www.sloopjones.com
And we would like to send out a special thanks to Liliana Martinez, a senior at Gifft Hill School. Liliana interviewed Sloop for this article and took the photographs. Liliana graduates today, so please join me in extending her a HUGE congratulations on that! And congrats to all of the Gifft Hill students who are graduating today!
An image taken earlier this week by Steve Simonsen.
St. John is an extremely small community as many of you may know. The majority of the people living here know each other, or at least know of each other. When someone is in need, the community rallies together and helps. It’s a beautiful thing.
Last night, we received a message from Janet Simonsen. She said she and her husband Steve, one of the island’s incredible photographers, are in the final stages of completing their home that was leveled during Hurricane Irma. The rebuild has been long, and it has been costly. The Simonsens are close to being able to move home, but not close enough.
Janet mentioned to me that they have copies of their beautiful coffee table book, Living Art, available for sale. One hundred percent of the proceeds of this book, Janet told me, will be used to complete their home, allowing them to go home for the first time since September 2017. Now this is where the community love comes in.
I love St. John, as I know many of you do. If you are looking to have a piece of the island in your home, please consider purchasing this book. Living Art is a beautiful hardcover book that features 198 pages of images taken here on St. John. Here is its cover:
Living Art costs $78.50. Shipping is included in the price. All copies will be signed by Steve Simonsen. Customers will receive a small discount when buying multiple books. You can purchase this book by visiting http://stevesimonsen.net/Home/Books.html
I have seen this book in person, and I can tell you that it is beautiful. Living Art would make a great addition to any St. John-lover’s home. And what’s better than helping a family move home. Not much in my book.
We have great news to share with all of you today! St. Johnopoly, the board game that was created to celebrate the island of St. John, is now available at St. John Spice!
For those of you who are not familiar with the board game, it’s essentially Monopoly, but with a St. John twist! Rather than landing on the typical spots like Boardwalk, Park Place and Marvin Gardens, you will land on some of your favorite businesses like Woody’s, The Tap Room, Miss Lucy’s, and more. Even the tokens are custom. This version, the third edition, has a Jeep, petrogylph, a heart for Love City and more.
The game includes several organizations that were instrumental during our hurricane recovery including WAPA, BBC, Kenny Chesney’s Love for Love City Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies. There are historical references, as well as nods to some of our favorite island spots, residents and happenings.
So as we mentioned, St. Johnopoly is now available at St. John Spice. St. John Spice is located right at the ferry dock on the second floor. The savory-smelling shop has been owned by Ruth and Ron, two island favorites, since 2000. They sell everything from coffees to spices to hats, t-shirts and other great souvenirs. St. John Spice is also home to the popular Spice Cam webcam.
St. Johnopoly is compact enough that it will fit in your suitcase or carry-on bag. Not on St. John, but want a copy? You can order yours online at www.newsofstjohn.com/stjohnopoly. Games retail for $50.
For those of you who are always interested in what island life is really like, you may be curious how St. Johnopoly actually arrived here on St. John. It wasn’t easy. Well here’s a bit of background…
St. Johnopoly was made in Cincinnati, Ohio. We had the option of making it overseas but chose to keep it American-made. That unfortunately drove the cost up a bit, but we’re happy with our decision. Once the game was complete, a pallet was shipped to Jacksonville, Florida where it hung out in a warehouse for a week or so before getting placed on a container ship.
The pallet finally arrived on island last month while I was away in Italy … how’s that for timing! Fortunately, St. John Hardware graciously offered to store the games until we were able to pick them up. Once I arrived back on St. John, I called Rashad’s Trucking who helped transport them to my house where they are now being stored. It takes a village, folks! Here are a few pics:
Thanks St. John Hardware!
Thanks Rashad’s Trucking!
Heading to Casa de News of St. John!
And a BIG thanks to those of you who have purchased the game already. We love seeing your pics, so please keep sending and posting them! Have a great day everyone! Happy shopping!
So as you all know, we’re not too happy with what’s going on at Caneel Bay. The resort remains closed; very little cleanup has occurred; and the leaseholder wants $70 million to walk away. They also want protection from any “environmental liability”. Hello red flag.
We wrote back in October that a major sticking point in the lease negotiations between CBI Acquisitions (the current leaseholder at Caneel Bay) and the National Park Service had to do with the presence of hazardous waste on the 170-acre property. CBI has known for at least five years that there was hazardous waste on the property, yet it appears CBI Acquisitions has done nothing to address this issue.
At this point, we are going to defer to our friend Kurt Repanshek of National Parks Traveler. Kurt posted a story earlier today that details some of the hazards present on the Caneel property and how CBI was aware of the environmentally-concerning situation all the way back in 2014. Rather than reinvent the wheel here, we’re going to cite Kurt directly.
Here is a portion of what he wrote today in National Parks Traveler.
Nearly two years since a one-two hurricane punch pounded Virgin Islands National Park and ravaged the high-end Caneel Bay Resort, secrecy shrouds not just the future of the resort but the extent of environmental contamination of its grounds.
National Park Service authorities acknowledge there is some environmental contamination at the resort that requires following the guidelines of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980. But they have been silent as to what, if any, progress has been made in determining the extent of the contamination and whether any cleanup has occurred.
For its part, CBI Acquisitions, LLC, the subsidiary of Stoneleigh Capital that operates the resort, not only wants to wash its hands of the storm-battered resort, but wants $70 million in compensation and indemnification from any environmental problems there.
After giving some background on the lease, how it’s supposed to revert to the Park in 2023 and how CBI sought a 60-year RUE extension but failed, Kurt continued…
Those extension efforts, unsuccessful so far and possibly facing greater headwinds now that Democrats control the House of Representatives, have overshadowed what, if any, efforts the National Park Service has made to see the property revert to its oversight as Rockefeller intended.
Also out of the public’s eye is the environmental condition of the property. When Rockefeller structured the RUE that allowed the Caneel Bay Resort to be operated for private profit, among the provisions he saw inserted was the requirement that the operator use and maintain the grounds in a way that is “consistent with the preservation of such outstanding scenic and other features of national significance, and preseve the Premises to the extent feasible in their natural condition for the public benefit, enjoyment, and inspiration…”
Whether that has been done is questionable.
Initial documents Traveler obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request included a 2014 environmental assessment of the Caneel Bay Resort property that raised questions of contamination from SVOCs — semivolatile organic compounds — often related to pesticides, and arsenic. “In addition, there are concerns for leachability of SVOCs, arsenic and mercury to groundwater,” the report noted.
The surveys also found concentrations of total petroleum hydrocarbons and diesel range organics above acceptable levels set by the Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources.
While the assessment called for more extensive testing to determine the extent of these contaminants — both across the ground surface and to determine depth of contamination — records Traveler obtained said CBI had refused to allow a contractor for the Park Service to access the grounds to perform further testing.
Those May 2017 briefing notes made by Gordy Kito, the Park Service’s leasing program manager, pointed out that “(T)he Department of Interior Solicitors Office believes that the NPS has the right to access the property to drill test wells.” But at the time, no follow-up request for access had been made.
While Traveler’s FOIA request has not been answered completely by the Park Service — it was delayed by the partial government shutdown earlier this year and, more recently, by litigation involving a different orgnization’s FOIA request — agency Service personnel in Washington, D.C., and the Park Service’s Southeast Regional Office have been unable to say whether additional testing has been done.
But the specter of serious environmental contamination of some extent to the resort property that fronts its namesake bay with its sugar-sand beaches and turquoise waters was raised by Rep. Plaskett late last month when she announced in a press release that CBI has asked to be paid $70 million to be released from the RUE and wants to be indemnified “from any environmental claims … ” (emphasis added.)
Plaskett issued the release on May 30 to inform her constituents that she had written Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to formally request that Interior provide her with “full transparency” concerning Caneel Bay Resort, CBI’s request that it be allowed to terminate the RUE and walk away, and Interior’s response to that request.
The Park Service and CBI Acquisitions supposedly have been trying for years to reach a lease agreement to succeed the RUE. While Engle told a congressional committee a year ago that the Park Service has never engaged in “substantive discussions” about a successive lease agreement beginning in 2023, Traveler has learned that Jo Pendry, the former chief of the Park Service’s concessions program, had made trips to the Virgin Islands as long ago as 2010 to discuss a lease with CBI.
CBI, the leaseholder of Caneel, has known since at least 2014 that there has been hazardous waste on the property, but refused to allow representative from the National Park Service access to address it.
CBI, the leaseholder of Caneel, has known since at least 2014 that there has been hazardous waste on the property, but has not cleaned it up.
CBI, the leaseholder of Caneel, wants to walk away and does not want to address the hazardous waste that’s been on the property CBI has controlled since 2004.
CBI, the leaseholder of Caneel, told a congressional committee that the Park Service has never engaged in “substantive discussions” regarding lease agreement beginning in 2023; yet the former chief of the Park Service visited St. John as far back as 2010 to engage in such discussions.
CBI, the leaseholder of Caneel, has done very little in terms of hurricane cleanup on the property.
CBI, the leaseholder of Caneel, continues to restrict access to the public beaches located within the property.
CBI, the leaseholder of Caneel, has refused to pay pensions to many of its deserving employees.
And now CBI wants $70 million to walk away and they want to be held harmless with regard to the hazardous waste on the property which is potentially polluting our ocean. Shouldn’t CBI be paying to clean this property up??
Dear Gary Engle (I know you read NOST), please just walk away. You treated your employees poorly. You treated this community poorly. You are treating the land your resort sits on poorly. You don’t deserve a dime. If anything, you owe us.