“The Trust acted like a middleman,” said Joe Kessler, president of the Friends of the Park group.
Kessler said that because the purchase was so large, the National Park Service is paying for it piecemeal.
John Garrison of the Trust for Public Land said this was the third payment made by the Park Service. He said the first was in late 2009 and the second in November 2010. The final payment is slated for 2013.
“It’s in the president’s budget,” Garrison said, referring to President Obama.
The 58 acres includes Maho Bay Beach and runs inland to several hundred feet of elevation.
According to Garrison, the remaining 74 acres still owned by the Trust is along and adjacent to the ridge top.
Rafe Boulon, the park’s chief of resource management, said that while the 58 acres was within the park’s authorized boundaries, the park now owns the piece that connects the east and west sections of the park.
While the deal initially was supposed to include a total of 415 acres, some members of the Marsh family, which owned the property, declined to sell. Boulon said when all the land owned by the Trust is conveyed, the park’s acreage at Maho Bay will total around 340 acres.
National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis called the transaction a success story at several levels.
“The Trust for Public Land has been out front on Maho Bay, preserving important lands and keeping them undeveloped,” Jarvis said in a press release issued Tuesday.
Trust for Public Land Chief Executive Officer Will Rogers said in the press release that now the property can never be developed.
“A resort hotel and hundreds of condominiums could have been built there so you can see how critical this project is to the long-term integrity of Virgin Islands National Park," Rogers said.
The $2.25 million purchase was completed with funds from the Land and Water
Conservation Fund – fees paid to the government as a result of offshore oil and gas leasing, the press release indicates.
“That’s another success story,” Jarvis said. “The National Park Service has been able to purchase park in-holdings – privately held land within national park boundaries – from willing sellers.”
And in many instances,” he added, “the trust bought the land and held it until we received Land and Water Conservation Fund funding.”
Rogers said the Maho Bay area has a greater value as undeveloped parkland where it will continue to benefit native plant and animal species and serve as a spectacular place for reflection and recreation for park visitors.