The best gift I ever received was a pair of binoculars. Don’t get me wrong, these were very nice binoculars, but nothing extraordinary. I simply say they were the best gift I have ever received because of the enjoyment they have given me over the years. And the reason they have been so great? I live above Mandahl Bay, where nature thrives in a healthy ecosystem. It is one of the few remaining areas of its kind in the entire Territory.
As you have surely heard and seen, Mandahl Bay is the proposed location of a new hotel, marina, condominium, and commercial development. This is not just a little development; this is being touted as the “Port of Mandahl”, with intentions of making this into a Red Hook type of area. It will be massive, and it will completely ruin, forever, one of the most pristine and necessary ecosystems remaining in the Territory. 500 hotel rooms. 100 boat slips. Huge commercial buildings. Tons of townhomes which are not economically viable. This proposal makes absolutely no sense.
Mandahl Bay is an extremely sensitive environmental location on the North Shore of St. Thomas, a critical habitat to many rare, endangered, and necessary species of birds, plants, corals, fish, and more. An overwhelming consensus of experts agrees that this is an area that should not be developed. It was determined, by our own Government, to be an area of particular concern. Specifically, that it should be set aside and not developed because of how environmentally sensitive an area it is. The Lagoon serves as a nursery for many fish species. The surrounding trees serve as shelter and home to countless birds for nesting habitat. The mangroves not only shelter the young fish and crustaceans, but also filter the runoff from the entire hillside above, which protects the corals just outside the lagoon. These are just some of the many reasons that this proposed development was refused by CZM in the past.
What you may not understand is that this land is owned by the people of the Virgin Islands. It is not owned by the developer. It is our land, and the Governor is trying to give it away in exchange for promises of money. This land was given to us by the Federal Government for “educational and other related community purpose only”. It was not given to us to pass to a developer so they can line their pockets at our expense.
Visitors come to the Virgin Islands for our climate and our beaches. They come for the scuba diving, snorkelling and boating. What happens when we can no longer offer these things? When there are no longer Pelicans diving at the beaches? No herons walking in the waters. When there are no longer fish to see or catch? When there are no longer lobsters for them to eat at the restaurants? By killing our ecosystems one by one, we are moving in that direction. We must save and preserve our valuable ecosystems or we will not have anything to offer- for tourists and locals alike. This Mandahl area is a critical piece to the survival of our local species.
I ask each and every one of you to take the time to write to your Senators. Tell them we do not need this project. Beg them to refuse to sign the lease that the Governor is urging them to sign. We must save Mandahl Bay. Do not let the Government give away our precious resources for the benefit of off island developers. Think about our future generations of Virgin Islanders. Give them the chance to use their binoculars and enjoy our environment, as that is the purpose of this land.
Kirk Boeger, St. Thomas