While Caneel Bay Resort management told V.I. National Park Superintendent Mark Hardgrove the resort is allowing non-guests to access parts of its property such as the Turtle Point Trail, others have disputed that assertion.
“We expect them to honor their obligation,” Hardgrove said Friday.
Hardgrove said there have been complaints made to rangers at the park Visitor Center about access to the Turtle Point Trail being denied. One person complained about that same issue at the popular travel forum www.virgin-islands-on-line.com.
Caneel Bay manager Nikolay Hotze said Friday the trail was open to non-guests but it was overgrown and needed trimming.
“We need to make sure it’s safe,” Hotze said.
Caneel Bay has a “retained use” permit to operate the resort on land owned by the National Park Service. It sits within the boundaries of V.I. National Park.
Others indicated on the travel forum that they were told to hike to Honeymoon Beach, also on the Caneel Bay property but west of the main beach, when they visited. A few people who arrived by dinghy wrote that they were told to go instead to “happy hour” in Cruz Bay for drinks instead of the resort’s bar.
Hotze said he couldn’t comment on the happy hour in Cruz Bay issue, but said that the main beach has a carrying capacity that’s been diminished by the swells along the North Shore. He wouldn’t specify a number because he said it depends on the size of the beach.
The swells make the beach narrower. He said non-guests are welcome at the main beach when it’s not filled up.
Hardgrove suggested that visitors are scrambling to find a beach that hasn’t been reduced in area by the swells.
“And visitors do want to see Caneel,” he said.
Others on www.virgin-islands-on-line.com wrote about “grilling” from security staff on what they planned to do on the property.
Caneel Bay this week jacked up the price it charges non-guests to park in its parking lot to $20 from $10, an increase that also got a lot of comment from forum posters. Hotze said the increase reflects an increase in the cost of upkeep for the property. He said the fee can be applied as a credit at the resort’s restaurants and gift shop.
Additionally, the resort is in hot water with the Planning and Natural Resources Department for not signposting access to its main beach. Planning’s Coastal Zone Management Director Jean-Pierre Oriol said Thursday that a settlement was reached with the resort, but the resort has 90 days to come up with a plan and another 90 days to put up the signs. This means the access route won’t be in place for the winter season. Hotze said he couldn’t comment on that issue.
According to Oriol, Caneel Bay’s CZM permit does not require it to provide access to all seven of the resort’s beaches. While Oriol said he is aware that Caneel Bay markets itself as a “secluded” resort, the territory’s public beach access laws apply and that Caneel Bay must provide signed access to its main beach.
DPNR spokesman Jamal Nielsen pointed out that all the territory’s hotels must provide access to beaches.
St. John Administrator Leona Smith said that taxi drivers were turned away at the resort’s guardhouse when they tried to enter with non-guests. While she said they were told it was it was because the beaches were full, she pointed out that it’s illegal to do so.
Hardgrove said that the National Park Service and Caneel are negotiating a lease for the property to replace the retained use permit. “We have a lot of studies to do and access is going to be a big issue,” he said.
The studies will also look at fair market value.
In addition to Caneel’s access issues, Hardgrove said the resort has had problems with CZM for construction projects that don’t have permits. CZM declined to comment when asked Thursday about any violations other than the access issue. Friday was a holiday and Planning was closed. Hotze also said he couldn’t comment.