April 19, 2002 – The extensive development planned for Botany Bay on the far western tip of St. Thomas will have an impact on the Nature Conservancy's preserve at Little St. Thomas just across the bay, the organization's program director told members of the Rotary Club of St. John on Friday.
Because the area is a preserve, activities there are restricted, Christine Joseph said. "Our approach is to put up a preserve sign," she told the dozen Rotarians gathered at the Westin Resort Beach Café for the club's weekly luncheon meeting.
Little St. Thomas is connected by a spit of land to mainland St. Thomas. It and the Botany Bay property sit at the very western end of St. Thomas.
Botany Bay Partners plans to build a large resort and housing development that includes a hotel, time-share and condominium units, private villas, a spa, a restaurant, a convenience store and a concrete dock. The 24th Legislature, by an 8-7 vote, rezoned the 70 acres from R-1 (low density) to R-3 (high density) to allow for the development.
The Nature Conservancy has offices on St. Thomas and St. Croix, and owns land on those islands as well as St. John and Water Island.
Utilizing private funds, the Nature Conservancy buys up undeveloped land that is considered to have natural significance, as a means of preventing its development. While the conservancy is a global organization, Joseph said, any purchases in the Virgin Islands must come through funds raised by the local office or received as donations.
In describing the overall work of the organization, which has had a presence in the territory since 1992, Joseph said the Sprat Bay Homeowners Association on Water Island recently donated about 44 acres of land on that island to the conservancy.
She declined to discuss any negotiations under way to expand the conservancy's holdings within the Magens Bay watershed on St. Thomas. The organization now owns 75 acres there. "We're interested in Magens Bay preservation," was all she would say.
The conservancy recently partnered with V.I. Ecotours, a private enterprise, in developing a hiking path in the Magens Bay watershed. The cruise lines are selling the trail hike as a guided tour, Joseph said, but more customers are needed to make the project profitable.
"We'll do local tours at discounted rates," she said, and the conservancy is asking civic groups such at Rotary clubs to fund trips for schoolchildren.
Among other project in the works, Joseph said, the organization is working with the V.I. government to create a territorial marine park on St. Croix's East End. "We're trying to put together experts" for that project, she said. Also, she said, the conservancy is working with the federal government on a forest needs assessment to determine what lands could be preserved.
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