For decades, residents and visitors sunned, snorkeled and swam at both north and south sides of Haulover because most thought it was part of V.I. National Park or other public land. Not so; it was private land owned by Dreekets Bay developer Dave Prebo, but thanks to efforts by the St. John Land Conservancy, it’s now part of the park. The park announced the donation Friday.
“It is a wonderful sign that the spirit of giving, by which this park was originally established, is alive and well,” Park Superintendent Brion FitzGerald said in the press release announcing the donation.
The Land Conservancy bought about 3.5 acres of the land that runs from the south to the north side of Haulover. It includes most of the south beach and about half the north beach as well as the land in between. The south side has a white sandy beach and the north side, a rocky one popular with beachcombers. Route 10 runs through it, with a path heading north to reach the rocky beach.
The land abuts both park land and V.I. Coral Reef National Monument waters. The north side fronts on Haulover Bay, while the south side faces Round Bay.
Raf Muilenburg said Prebo made the land available at a “conservation” price.
“He wanted it to go to the park,” Muilenburg, who will soon serve as Land Conservancy president, said.
The group bought the land in 2011 for $800,000, but it took until recently for the park paperwork to be completed.
The Land Conservancy was formed several years ago by part-time resident Laura Mercadante with help from her husband, George Mercadante; full-time resident Athena Swartley; and Muilenburg. Lauren Mercadante is the current Land Conservancy president.
The group sent out an appeal for funding to buy the Haulover property.
Lauren Mercadante said that because development on St. John is moving at such a fast pace and is “out of control,” it’s important to save what they can. However, she said most land owners willing to sell want high prices.
“They want to conserve the land, but in the end they’d rather make what money they can,” Lauren Mercadante said from her stateside home in Valley Forge, Penn.
She said she has visited St. John for 44 years.
“I’m doing this to give back to St. John,” she said.
According to Muilenburg, the group is currently working on conserving privately-owned land in several areas of Coral Bay.
Learn more about the Land Conservancy at http://www.stjohnlandconservancy.org