Aug. 22, 2001 — Almost two years after a judge blocked the Beal Aerospace purchase of land at St. Croix’s Great Pond Bay and ordered the V.I. government to develop a park plan for the 14.5 acres commonly called Camp Arawak, an effort is underway to find money to preserve the area.
On Tuesday, Delegate to Congress Donna Christian Christensen said that local and federal officials have begun talking about restoring Great Pond Bay and some 15 acres of publically owned land adjacent to the bay where Camp Arawak sits.
Along with blocking the exchange of public property at Camp Arawak between the V.I. government and Beal Aerospace on Dec. 15, 1999, Territorial Court Judge Alphonso Andrews gave the Turnbull administration 60 days to pick a department to come up with a "flexible, comprehensive master plan for the use of the property and structures as a park facility."
Turnbull chose the Department of Housing, Parks and Recreation to draft the plan. Commissioner Ira Hobson selected, among others, Raymond "Usie" Richards and Valmy Thomas to sit on the task force.
The plan was completed in early 2000 and turned over to the administration. But nothing has happened since. After Hobson submitted the plan, he said a lack of money would stand in the way of a future park.
Hobson contacted Christensen in the hope of finding federal opportunities to fund the master plan. Christensen said that through her membership on the Congressional Coastal Caucus, she was able to connect with Coastal America, a consortium of 12 federal agencies that work together to help communities preserve and protect coastal areas that are of environmental, historical and cultural significance.
"Today," said Christensen, "we were able to start a dialogue between Commissioner Hobson, his staff, Attorney Ned Jacobs, Senator Alicia Hansen and the Southeast Region of Coastal America, in [the person of] Mr. Dennis Barnett and Dave Holland, that could finally give us the resources needed to preserve and protect Great Pond Bay in the manner in which the people of St. Croix have said it should be preserved."
She said the key to the dialogue was the partnership that would be formed between local and federal agencies and the public to get the property preserved as well as enhanced as was intended.
Christensen said everyone at the meeting was encouraged by the report given by Dave Holland of Coastal America, who did a site visit of the property last week and said it was "indeed a project that was worthy of the group's resources and attention."
"This is the beginning of a process," Christensen said. "It will take a great deal of planning, dialogue and hard work on the part of all concerned, including the general public, before the process truly gets underway."
In his 1999 order, Andrews stipulated that the park plan had to include a means of funding and that money collected for the plan must be deposited in a separate account independent from the V.I. government’s general fund.
Camp Arawak was donated to the people of the Virgin Islands by the late Frank Wiesner in 1974. The deed stipulated that the property, which contains the ruins of a Danish colonial-era great house and other cultural and archeological artifacts, was to be developed into a park.
Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and the government’s cash shortfalls, however, have left the great house in disrepair and the property undeveloped.


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