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Program on Development, Heritage Tourism Continues This Evening

Nov. 27, 2006 — A program about laying the groundwork for the coexistence of tourism and community development took place Monday at the Carambola Beach Resort, continuing Tuesday evening with a community forum at UVI.
"The concept is not to have random development but development comprehensively designed with the people in mind," said Paul Chakroff, a member of the organization hosting the symposium.
That organization is a coalition of business people and organizations called St. Croix Unified for Community, Culture, Environment and Economic Development (SUCCEED). It is committed to identifying and serving as a catalyst for smart growth on St. Croix. The organization believes in utilizing local resources — history, culture, the environment and local entrepreneurs — as options to develop tourism.
The proposed development on the northwest side of St. Croix provided one impetus for the symposium. In December, Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards announced a hotel development at Annaly Bay, just west of the Carambola Beach Resort. The development would encompass more than 2500 acres and have a value of more than $500 million at completion. It would include three different hotels, residential villages, estate homes and villa residences spread over 1327 acres.
The proposal came under fire from community members, who defended the area as a protected sanctuary known as Maroon Park — a place where enslaved Africans sought refuge from the harsh conditions of slavery. SUCCEED advocates a national park-style setting in the area, featuring trails and roads leading to the rocky shores, caves and natural sea baths unique to the landscape.
"This is the beginning of a community exercise that will steer the development of the area," Chakroff said.
The public is invited to a community forum at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the student center, UVI St. Croix campus. The forum will provide an opportunity for community engagement, Chakroff said: "We dont want to see outside investors using local resources with the proceeds going off island."
He hopes the forum will catch the attention of local investors who have long-term interest in the property.
Monday's all-day symposium featured presenters from various international groups leading discussions, detailing methods used to build tourism based on the historical, cultural and environmental strengths of a region.
Presenters included Luz Cuadrado-Pitterson, who works in micro-economic development related to heritage tourism in Puerto Rico; Sam Raphael, owner of the Jungle Bay Resort and Spa in Dominica; and Donald Hawkins, a professor of tourism studies whose research includes barriers to investments, environmental practices of the industry, biodiversity and sustainable coastal tourism.
The seeds for this week's discussion were planted at the 1990 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, when a St. John basket weaver appeared on the cover of the event's official commemorative booklet, said Olivia Cadaval of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in Washington, D.C. The cover indicated a trend toward natural cultural resources as a draw for tourism instead of the traditional scenes of tourists lounging on a beach, Cadaval said.
"You have it all," she said, emphasizing that "living exhibits" like broom making, bush medicines, stone masonry, basket weaving and cultural music not only increase self-awareness but also change visitors' perception of the islands, while providing economic benefits.
"Culture cannot be divorced from its practitioners," Cadaval said, urging locals to get involved in tourism development.
For more information on SUCCEED and the community forum, call 778-4711 or click here for email.
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