A well respected St. John educator told me “Now I know how the American Indian felt when he was put on a reservation.” I feel much the same way here on St. Thomas as I see more and more of our precious green space, shoreline and local lifestyle under attack by outside exploiters. Specifically, I am referring to the proposed development at Mandahl Bay by The Port of Mandahl group, which is a subsidiary of Transcontinental Realty Investors, a New York Stock Exchange Company.
Mandahl Bay was donated to the Virgin Islands for “educational and related community purposes only,” was designated “an area of particular concern” by the 1994 Legislature, and is surrounded by a quiet residential community. It is utilized by North Side fisherman for bait, kayakers, surfers, divers, fishermen and local beach lovers. Boaters use it as a boat launch and as a hurricane shelter. It is home to the largest extant field of elkhorn coral reef on St. Thomas. I have observed one of two areas with three species of mangrove and home to one of the largest fish nurseries on the North Shore of St. Thomas. This is one of the few non-gated recreational areas left that is utilized primarily by local residents, which was the original intent of the 1945 agreement.
The Port of Mandahl wants to develop this area by putting in a 300-room hotel, condominiums, restaurants, 110 slip marina with fuel storage tanks, a sewage treatment plant and an artificially enhanced beach. This is a recipe for disaster. Think about all that can and will go wrong. The word “development” in my mind conjures up improvement or enhancement of what is there. How can they call this “development” when the bay land and sea eco system will be destroyed, the livability of an entire residential community sacrificed and our local lifestyle taken away?
Already we have three megaresorts on St. Thomas with a fourth in Smith Bay soon to come on line. Compass Point is also increasing its marina capacity. It seems to me we need to protect the resorts we already have from an undesirable development that threatens their sustainability. We will have more capacity than we need. Too many empty rooms and boat slips is not a good thing. As we pave over more and more of our pristine land, add a larger burden to our infrastructure, eliminate another local recreational area and destroy the environment, St. Thomas becomes less and less a desirable destination for tourists and as a place for us who live here to enjoy. St. Thomas is past its saturation point. We are killing the goose that laid the golden egg.
The Wolves of Wall Street would like us to believe they are here in our best interest. Just remember their loyalty lies with making a profit for their stock holders. If a majority of a community is opposed to their plan and a local way of life is altered, then that is too bad. The power of their money should not be the determiner of what is best for the Virgin Islands. These investors don’t have a clue as to what is in our island’s best interest. We must do all we can to stop this project and protect what belongs to the people of the Virgin Islands. Please support The Friends of Mandahl and visit www.SaveMandahlBay.com for more information.
Charlie Davis — Mandahl, St. Thomas resident