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V.I. Park Unable to Reach Agreement With Marsh Heirs

Jan. 22, 2006 – After years of negotiations, the V.I. National Park and the Marsh family heirs, who own land at St. John's Maho Bay, were not able to reach an agreement on how to divide up the land.
"The matter is in the courts. We were unable to reach an agreement with the other owners, so the property will be partitioned," Park Superintendent Art Frederick said Sunday at the Friends of the Park annual meeting, held at T'ree Lizards Restaurant at Cinnamon Bay Campground.
About 160 people attended the meeting.
The 438 acres across North Shore Road from Great Maho Bay have a complicated ownership. The park owns the beach at Great Maho Bay, as well as the North Shore Road that runs along it.
The inland acreage is not divided into individual ownership, but rather by shares. The park has three shares, the Trust for Public Land has one, and Marsh family heirs own seven, for a total of 11.
Six of the seven heirs have given businessman James Simons options to buy their seven shares, owned collectively by the all the heirs. Simons is the founder and president of New York-based Renaissance Technologies Corp., a private investment firm.
Friends president Joe Kessler said one heir isn't interested in selling.
Kessler said that when the court partitions the property, the park's three shares will be contiguous.
Reportedly Simons wants to build a "think tank" on the property, put a dock in at Maho Bay, move the road and fill in the wetlands.
The Friends of the Park have launched an aggressive "call-to-action" campaign opposing Simon's plans.
In his state of the park address, Frederick said the park will hold public meetings on its proposed new general management plan. He said he anticipates the meetings will start in about six to eight weeks.
He said the plan creates five different zones within the park: a visitor contact zone, a recreation zone, a resource protection zone, a nature and heritage zone, and a backcountry experience zone.
While four of the zones include activities that already happen in the park, backcountry camping will be new.
Frederick said he envisions a visitor getting off the ferry, picking up a backcountry camping permit at the visitors center, and heading out on a yet-to-be- developed hiking path along the North Shore to a backcountry campground.
Keynote speaker David Rockefeller Jr., nephew of park benefactor Laurence S. Rockefeller, said parks across the country face challenges in trying to balance the needs of all visitors.
He said he has an issue with noise, particularly blasting radios that annoy everyone on the beach. He suggested noisy activities be separated from those that are quieter.
Rockefeller also spoke about the trend at "overloaded" national parks to make visitors take buses to key attractions.
"Those places would be total parking lots if they were allowed to go in their own vehicles," he said.
While he didn't mention the parking congestion at this park, the parking lots at popular Trunk Bay often overflow onto the road.
Rockefeller recently served as the vice-chairman at the National Parks Foundation, a group he called a "Friends group" for the entire National Park Service.
He spoke about the importance of such groups but warned the members of this Friends group not to allow the U.S. Congress to renege on its funding obligation because the Friends are good at raising money.
Frederick and other speakers also noted that the park will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year. Events are planned throughout the year.
The Friends gave its partnership award to Rafe Boulon, the park's chief of resource management, and its volunteer award to the late David Denny.
Kessler said that Denny, who died recently, was a docent at Annaberg Plantation.
The park's Volunteer of the Year Award went to retired librarian Midori Buchanan for organizing the park's library.
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