Feb. 15, 2006 – A bill to study the feasibility of designating Castle Nugent Farms as a unit of the National Park System is scheduled for a hearing Thursday before the Subcommittee on Parks of the U.S. Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee, according to a release issued from Delegate to Congress Donna M. Christensen.
Christensen sponsored the bill, H.R. 318, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously on Nov. 15, 2005. The bill requires the Secretary of Interior to determine whether the 1,350-acre property on St. Croix's southeastern shore is suitable to become a part of the National Park System in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
A similar bill passed the House last year, but was not considered by the Senate before Congress adjourned. (See "Castle Nugent One Step Closer to National Park Status".)
The farm, which is best known as a breeding center of the world famous Senepol cattle, covers dry forest and pastureland rich in cultural resources predating the arrival of Christopher Columbus at Salt River in 1493. Located on the ranch is a large Danish estate house dating to the 1730s that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The land is bordered by four miles of pristine oceanfront with a coral reef, which some marine scientists say is the largest and healthiest in the territory.
In 2003, Caroline Gasperi, one of the owners of the farm, said she has been approached by several people "who would like to divvy up the ranch for wall-to-wall condominiums or more casinos." She said the ranch is one of the oldest in the West Indies and having it designated as a National Park would be an advantage to the tourist market on St. Croix.
Christensen noted that both the National Park Service and the property owners are enthusiastic about the possibility of it becoming a National Park.
In support of the passage of her bill, Christensen said that the Gasperi family property contains natural and cultural resources that should be preserved and interpreted for future generations. "The owners are justifiably proud of their ranch, which contains more than four miles of pristine oceanfront with a large and healthy fringing coral reef," Christensen said.
"The interior of the property consists of Caribbean dry forest and pasture lands with cultural resources from both pre-Columbian and post-European settlement," Christensen said.
The property also includes a large Danish estate house dating to the 1730s that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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