Aug. 28, 2006 – A 415-acre parcel at Maho Bay is slated for preservation thanks to a deal in the works between the Trust for Public Land and all but one of the Marsh family heirs who own the property.
"It means the land will be protected," John Garrison of the Trust said Monday.
The 415 acres sits inland from the beach at Maho Bay within V.I. National Park boundaries.
Garrison said he expects the deal to close in the first quarter of 2007. He declined to reveal the price.
While other acreage figures for the land have circulated over the past few years, Garrison said that 415 acres was accurate.
He said that ultimately the land will be deeded to the park.
A year ago, it appeared that New York businessman James Simons would buy the land for a "think tank," but Garrison said that deal fell through.
Simons is the founder and president of Renaissance Technologies Corp., a private investment firm.
At the time, his attorney, George Dudley of St. Thomas, said that Simons planned to move inland the road that runs along the beach and wanted to build a dock.
Friends of the Park President Joe Kessler said at the time that moving the road would impede access to the beach, particularly for people with mobility problems. Maho Bay is the only park beach that sits immediately adjacent to the road, which provides easy access to the beach and the water.
Garrison said the Trust has successfully negotiated with six of the seven Marsh family heirs who own six of the 11 shares in the property. He said the Trust hasn't reached an agreement with the seventh heir.
The Trust already owns one share and the National Park, three shares. The park owns the beachfront land and the road.
Garrison said if a deal can't be made with the seventh heir, the court would decide where the seventh heir's land would sit within the 415 acres. He said this would mean that 37.7 acres of the total property could be developed.
He said he's worked on the deal since 1999 when he was president of the Friends of the Park group.
Paul Thomas, who is serving as acting park superintendent in the absence of Superintendent Art Frederick, called it wonderful news.
"It's a very sensitive piece of property," he said.
John Fuller, who serves as chairman of the Friends, said he was "ever so grateful" to the Trust for purchasing the property.
"It removes a serious threat to the integrity of the National Park," he said.
The Trust for Public Land also owns a total of four acres on either side of the 415 acres, creating bookends on the larger property. These pieces include the one-acre parcel on the inland side at the southern end of Great Maho Bay and another three acres where the North Shore Road bends sharply to the east. A trailer currently sits on that property.
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