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HomeNewsArchivesPARK SERVICE STARTS SALT RIVER LAND PURCHASES

PARK SERVICE STARTS SALT RIVER LAND PURCHASES

Although the boundaries of St. Croix’s Salt River National Park were drawn in 1992, the vast majority of acreage has been in private ownership – until now.
Joel Tutein, National Park Service Superintendent on St. Croix, said Monday that the local park unit has just closed a $700,000 deal for 106 acres on the southwestern part of Salt River Bay, also known as the Ott property.
"This is our first purchase," said Tutein, adding that more deals are on the way. "At the end of this calendar year we’ll have 182 acres that we have purchased."
Salt River National Park, co-managed by the U.S. National Park Service and the V.I. government, consists of 600 acres of submerged land and 312 acres of land adjacent to Salt River Bay. The V.I. government owns about 52 acres in the area, including the five-acre Columbus Landing site. The Park Service owns another 22.
The eight-year effort to acquire land for the park, however, has been hampered by a host of challenges, including reluctant private-property owners, a seemingly disinterested local government and past Republican-controlled Congresses.
In 1994, Tutein and his team on St. Croix received $3 million from Congress, then controlled by Democrats, for land purchases around Salt River. But because of a lack of action by former government administrations in approving the park’s Land Protection Plan, the funding was taken back.
"By the time the Schneider administration agreed to the Land Protection Plan, Congress, then controlled by Republicans, rescinded the $3 million," Tutein said. In 1998, $1.2 million was again appropriated to purchase land. "That’s when I decided to make a decision to take a more proactive role."
"We’re going to get this process rolling by being more proactive to stimulate interest in the area," he said.
Now, two years after negotiations with the Ott family began, Salt River National Park has 106 acres of land to call its own. And for good measure, Tutein said, the Otts have offered to donate an additional 15 acres to the Park Service.
Now Tutein has his sights set on a $400,000, 76-acre parcel on the northeast side of Salt River Bay where the ruins of an old hotel sit.
"We are in negotiations," he said. "We’ve put down a sizable amount of money. We’re trying to put a lock on it."
Tutein said he hopes the purchases spur the Turnbull administration to move on appointing its representatives to the Salt River National Park’s 10-person advisory board. The board should consist of the governor of the territory, the Secretary of the Interior (or their appointees); three members of the community, and a sitting V.I. senator.
Although the V.I. hasn’t appointed the community members or named a senator to the board, the Park Service has its members — Maxwell McIntosh, Jessica Thompson, Roy Adams and a fourth person yet to be announced – ready to work.
Tutein said there is a crucial need for stepped-up efforts to preserve the V.I. government’s five-acre Columbus Landing site. The area houses pre-Columbus Indian artifacts and the ruins of an old French fort.
"Those are the most significant five acres in the entire park," he said. "We’re going to try and assist them to manage that area as best we can."
Meanwhile, Tutein said the Park Service is planning for future acquisitions. In fiscal year 2001, the local park unit will get another $1.5 million for land purchases at Salt River. Since 1992, the "number-one" acquisition goal has been the Salt River Marina, which is owned by an Italian family, Tutein said.
"Our real target is the marina. We don’t know our plans for it other than to build a visitor center and museum," Tutein said. "Are we going to keep the marina, I don’t know.
"It’s only a couple of acres, it’s strategically located for a visitor center and the rest of the park wouldn’t get impacted."
Tutein said the remaining acreage consists of small individual tracts.

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Although the boundaries of St. Croix’s Salt River National Park were drawn in 1992, the vast majority of acreage has been in private ownership – until now.
Joel Tutein, National Park Service Superintendent on St. Croix, said Monday that the local park unit has just closed a $700,000 deal for 106 acres on the southwestern part of Salt River Bay, also known as the Ott property.
"This is our first purchase," said Tutein, adding that more deals are on the way. "At the end of this calendar year we’ll have 182 acres that we have purchased."
Salt River National Park, co-managed by the U.S. National Park Service and the V.I. government, consists of 600 acres of submerged land and 312 acres of land adjacent to Salt River Bay. The V.I. government owns about 52 acres in the area, including the five-acre Columbus Landing site. The Park Service owns another 22.
The eight-year effort to acquire land for the park, however, has been hampered by a host of challenges, including reluctant private-property owners, a seemingly disinterested local government and past Republican-controlled Congresses.
In 1994, Tutein and his team on St. Croix received $3 million from Congress, then controlled by Democrats, for land purchases around Salt River. But because of a lack of action by former government administrations in approving the park’s Land Protection Plan, the funding was taken back.
"By the time the Schneider administration agreed to the Land Protection Plan, Congress, then controlled by Republicans, rescinded the $3 million," Tutein said. In 1998, $1.2 million was again appropriated to purchase land. "That’s when I decided to make a decision to take a more proactive role."
"We’re going to get this process rolling by being more proactive to stimulate interest in the area," he said.
Now, two years after negotiations with the Ott family began, Salt River National Park has 106 acres of land to call its own. And for good measure, Tutein said, the Otts have offered to donate an additional 15 acres to the Park Service.
Now Tutein has his sights set on a $400,000, 76-acre parcel on the northeast side of Salt River Bay where the ruins of an old hotel sit.
"We are in negotiations," he said. "We’ve put down a sizable amount of money. We’re trying to put a lock on it."
Tutein said he hopes the purchases spur the Turnbull administration to move on appointing its representatives to the Salt River National Park’s 10-person advisory board. The board should consist of the governor of the territory, the Secretary of the Interior (or their appointees); three members of the community, and a sitting V.I. senator.
Although the V.I. hasn’t appointed the community members or named a senator to the board, the Park Service has its members -- Maxwell McIntosh, Jessica Thompson, Roy Adams and a fourth person yet to be announced – ready to work.
Tutein said there is a crucial need for stepped-up efforts to preserve the V.I. government’s five-acre Columbus Landing site. The area houses pre-Columbus Indian artifacts and the ruins of an old French fort.
"Those are the most significant five acres in the entire park," he said. "We’re going to try and assist them to manage that area as best we can."
Meanwhile, Tutein said the Park Service is planning for future acquisitions. In fiscal year 2001, the local park unit will get another $1.5 million for land purchases at Salt River. Since 1992, the "number-one" acquisition goal has been the Salt River Marina, which is owned by an Italian family, Tutein said.
"Our real target is the marina. We don’t know our plans for it other than to build a visitor center and museum," Tutein said. "Are we going to keep the marina, I don’t know.
"It’s only a couple of acres, it’s strategically located for a visitor center and the rest of the park wouldn’t get impacted."
Tutein said the remaining acreage consists of small individual tracts.