Oct. 12, 2002 The National Park Service's proposed eco-tourism project for the Salt River Marina would not be a lucrative venture if revenue generating concessions are not a part of the park's plan.
At a Wednesday forum at the National Park Service administrative office, Superintendent Joel Tutein assured two water sport concessions that proposed plans for the marina site will include specified services and attractions for visitors to a world class museum. He welcomed the public to meet with him and discuss issues relevant to Park Service properties.
Anchor Dive Center and Caribbean Adventure Tours operators voiced their concerns during the session. David Wyrzykowski of Anchor asked, "What will happen to vendors in Salt River?"
Tutein said, "We are always interested in sustaining revenue. It would be nonsense going into Salt River and shutting everything down. We intend to buy it and use it as a marina. It is a revenue stream. Why would we kick out paying tenants?"
Marinas are also operated at Green Cay, the Yacht Club and St. Croix Marina in Gallows Bay.
Tutein offered a historical perspective on the Park Service in the Virgin Islands and its mission to protect and preserve the architectural and cultural relics of the territory. Prior to Oct. 1, 1999, St. Croix park properties were managed through the St. Thomas office.
He said a recent global positioning satellite mapping indicates that the Salt River property totals over 1,000 acres of land and sea.
Tutein said five parcels were identified for acquisition in the early 90s, but the marina was the No. 1 choice because it already had a bulk head and moorings, and gave access to Columbus Landing.
He also said another proposed acquisition was the 73-acre Allen River property to the east of the Salt River inlet that is home to mangroves and various marine and bird life. This was acquired in 1999 for $1.5 million from a Texas-based investment group that had purchased the property in a land auction.
Talks are under way for the purchase of the Peter Kumpitch estate, which is perched on a hill between Columbus Landing to the east and Gentle Winds Condominiums on the west side, to be used as a ranger station and temporary home of the museum.
"The marina will be developed to a world-class business center and heritage site that is going to explode when eco-tourism comes to St. Croix," Tutein said.
He said Delegate to Congress Donna Christian Christensen was instrumental in securing the funding through Congressional legislation. "She saw it as critical and introduced $1.5 million for land acquisition at Salt River."
Other properties on St. Croix include the recent purchase of the Danish West Indies & Guinea Company Warehouse Complex on the Christiansted waterfront for the sum of $800,000 based on two federal appraisals. The Postal Service's asking price was $1.2 million.
Questions raised included the safety of visitors to the Columbus Landing beach area, the removal of a dumpster placed on the site, illegal dumping of large items, a managed campsite for residents and towing of vehicles parked in the NPS lot after 5 p.m.
Tutein said the Park Service has no jurisdiction over the five-acre beach recreational area. It is solely under the management of the V.I. government.
"We recognized very early that we needed a presence at Salt River," he said. "We hope the public recognizes that we cannot enforce any violation on Territorial property."
He said four proposals have been submitted to the local government for joint management of the site. "We welcome them at any juncture to step in and merge with us."
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