I am writing, as chairperson of the Magens Bay Authority, to address misperceptions circulating in the community about how the Authority considers proposals for various uses and activities on Authority property and also to clarify a recent informal discussion held between the board and a local tour operator, Cruise Ship Excursions.
The procedure is simple. The applicant contacts the authority by letter or email to begin communication. The applicant then presents the proposal to the board members at a regular monthly board meeting. Thus, at its Aug. 21 meeting, all members and the general and business managers were present, along with three persons from Cruise Ship Excursions inquiring on behalf of Disney Cruises, and a reporter from an online newspaper. A preliminary request had been circulated to the board before the meeting.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Disney Cruises offered a Magens Bay tour (for up to 200 persons) which included reserved lounge chairs in the vicinity of the concession area. In planning for an eventual return to St. Thomas, Disney considered the needs for meeting CDC requirements on board their ships and for land tours. They wanted to ensure that their passengers did not unnecessarily come in contact with residents and vice versa due to COVID-19 concerns. Thinking about reducing numbers — to 100 or less tour participants — and increasing spacing between groups, they made a proposal for staging the tour at a less crowded part of the beach and providing services to make it convenient to keep the group concentrated in one area, with the aim of reducing COVID-19 spread. Hence the use of the proposed bathroom trailer, which would be for the exclusive use of the tour participants. The tour and the trailer would have attendants.
Board members raised a number of questions of the tour company. One was to verify that “exclusivity” referred to the use of the bathroom trailer, but not to the use of that part of the beach. When asked if other beach users would be prohibited from passing through the area in any direction, the answer was that there would be no barriers or restrictions. The proposed use of an alternate location is temporary, only during the COVID-19 pandemic. For questions which could not be answered at the time, the company was asked to supply more detailed information. The application was tabled for further consideration at another meeting pending receipt of the information.
The public should be aware that almost all activities which occur on authority properties have come before the board. In some cases, the policy has been set for repetitive activities like shed or tent rentals, weddings, church or family gatherings and celebrations. Applications for these are in a standard format and are handled by the office and manager. Some proposals do not come before the board because they are in conflict with established rules. As an example, a proposal for jet ski rentals would not be considered because jet skis are not allowed at Magens Bay Park. Other proposals for activities such as large food events (King of the Wing), athletic events (Kid’s Triathlon), boating events (the USVI Poker Run), tours centering on the parks’ flora and fauna, health fairs, photo shoots for national advertising campaigns, filming of major motion pictures and group beach tours come before the board for consideration and negotiation of the conditions under which the activity will be allowed.
In the past, meetings were held at Shed 4 at Magens Beach. Now, due to the COVID-19 pandemic meetings occur by ZOOM. The applicant presents the proposal and board members ask questions. There can be a variety of outcomes. If the information supplied is sufficient, a vote is taken then with the applicant present. If more information is required, the application may be tabled pending its receipt. In some cases there may be multiple meetings before a decision is reached. The conditions of the approval, if granted, are stated and the formalization and follow through are done through the office.
The board and I hope this statement clarifies the issues at hand.
— Katina E. Coulianos is chairperson of the Magens Bay Authority, which oversees Magens Bay Park.