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HomeNewsArchivesBEACH FEES: WHO - IF ANYONE - SHOULD PAY?

BEACH FEES: WHO – IF ANYONE – SHOULD PAY?

May 26, 2001 – This week's Source poll appears in three forms — each distinct to the particular island referenced. The topic in all three cases is beach fees.
While by law there is public access to all beaches in the Virgin Islands, access to two of the best known is not free: those at Magens Bay on St. Thomas and at Trunk Bay in the V.I. National Park on St. John.
Magens Bay charges "admission fees" — $3 for visitors over 12 years, $1 for residents over 12 years, $1 for vehicles and $.25 for children 12 and younger. The higher rate for visitors went into effect last October. Monthly passes are available; they're $15 for general admission and $6 for seniors and cover all immediate family members in the pass holder's vehicle.
Trunk Bay charges "user fees" — $4 per person over the age of 16, whether visitor or resident. A one-year family pass is available for $15. The $4 fee also covers the "user fee" at the Annaberg Plantation sugar mill ruins, provided that the fee payer visits both locales on the same day. Otherwise, there's also a $4 user fee at Annaberg.
Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen wants to see a semi-autonomous authority created for Cramer's Park on St. Croix that would be similar to the Magens Bay Authority.
Magens executive director William Jowers told the Senate Finance Committee that he had no budget request from the government for Fiscal Year 2002 because the authority is able to cover its costs out of admission fees (plus rentals for sheds, weddings and the like).
V.I. National Park Supt. John King said the Trunk Bay "user fee" is to cover the use of the showers and changing rooms, as well as access to the beach snack bar, watersports concession and gift shop. He said the one exception to the $4 fee is a rate half that charged the tour operator for the motor vessel Leylon Sneed, which moors in the bay while passengers snorkel up to the beach and along the underwater trail. The rate is lower in this case because "they don't typically come ashore and use the facilties," King said.
Tour operators, both Jowers and King said, typically factor the beach fees into their overall tour fees so that visitors don't make separate payments.
Hansen would like to see Cramer's Park become financially self-sufficient, just as Magens Bay is. However, Magens gets most of its gate revenues from tourists, and King roughly estimates that 85 percent of the Trunk Bay revenues come from non-residents. The visitor volume on St. Croix is far less than on St. Thomas, and St. John attracts many visitors from St. Thomas. Thus, a significant question is whether Cramer's Park could become self-sufficient by charging fees similar to those charged at Magens Bay and Trunk Bay.
Then there is the issue of whether there should be a "locals" fee lower than that assessed visitors. Other options include increasing fees, eliminating fees and extending fees to other popular beaches on the islands.
We await your input as to what you think would work best for all concerned.

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