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FUNDING FOR CAMP ARAWAK PARK ORDER SCARCE

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With the V.I. government grappling with a $1 billion debt, local politicians may have to look to the federal government to fund a judge’s order that calls for the Turnbull administration to turn Camp Arawak into a park.
A week ago Territorial Court Judge Alphonso Andrews blocked the V.I. government from trading 14.5 acres of public land on Great Pond Bay, referred to as Camp Arawak, to Beal Aerospace Technologies. After issuing the permanent injunction against the land swap, Andrews gave Gov. Charles Turnbull 60 days to develop the 14.5 acres into a park.
The judge ordered Turnbull to come up with a "flexible, comprehensive master plan for the use of the property and structures as a park facility." Along with its waterfront location the property contains Danish colonial-era ruins that include a great house and other cultural and pre-Columbian archeological artifacts.
Andrews, however, left the funding issue up to the governor. And that has people on both sides of the Beal deal either questioning the feasibility of the order or seeking money. News reports have quoted members of the St. Croix Environmental Association as saying the Camp Arawak property could cost $250,000 to administer.
"It’s an important ruling," said Wade Gates, Beal’s director of corporate affairs, "in that it not only prevents a new investment and the creation of new jobs, but that it attempts to create a further liability on the government by demanding it fund activities on the site. Who is going to pay for that?"
A possible answer could be in the V.I. government-Department of Interior memorandum of understanding that was signed in October by Turnbull and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt. In order to stimulate local economic growth through sustainable tourism, the memorandum commits the administration and Interior to a program of preserving and enhancing the territory’s natural, cultural and historic resources.
A key element in the memorandum is the establishment of what is called the Virgin Islands Conservation Trust, which would maintain and manage resources by creating a network of local parks and recreation trails.
"I know the Secretary (Babbitt) wants to get that started," said Delegate to Congress Donna Christian Christensen. "Technical assistance is something that is easy to come by. Funds are harder."
In the meantime, Christensen said she is searching the federal government for grant possibilities, including a lead she has already passed on to the Department of Planning and Natural Resources.
"One of the things I will do is work with the administration to help identify funds," she said. "There are a number of areas for grants. One is for the protection of wetlands."
While Texas-based Beal already owns more than 250 acres adjacent to the Camp Arawak property, company officials maintain the 14.5 acres is needed for a portion of their $57-million world headquarters and rocket assembly plant.
The Camp Arawak property was donated in perpetuity to the people of the Virgin Islands by the late Frank Wiesner in 1974. The deed stipulated that the property was to be developed into a park. For various reasons, including 1989's Hurricane Hugo that severely damaged the great house and more recently the government’s cash crunch, the land was never fully developed by the government.
The memorandum, meanwhile, states that the Secretary of Interior will work on obtaining funding and assets for the V.I. Conservation Trust. It also states that Interior will work with the V.I. government and the University of the Virgin Islands to provide opportunities for students to learn about the stewardship of resources by working with National Park Service experts through a park mentorship program.
The program is supposed to be funded at up to $50,000 per year for fiscal years 2000, 2001 and 2002, subject to the availability of funds.
"I’m pleased with the decision," Christensen said. "The land swap wasn’t something I readily supported. The stage is being set for something positive."

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