Dear Editor,

The following letter was written to members of the Friends of Virgin Islands National Park.

I know there is a lot going on in the world and in the United States of America right now. I don’t make this request lightly. On Dec. 9, 2020, the Department of Interior (DOI) and CBI Acquisitions, LLC (CBIA) announced they would begin negotiations toward a 40-year noncompetitive lease for the Caneel Bay property on St. John.

After holding St. John hostage for over three years and attempting to get $70 million and a release of liability for environmental contamination, CBIA has indicated a desire to strike a deal before the end of the Trump administration. Such a deal is being done without input from the St. John community, without knowledge of the extent of environmental contamination on the property or a plan for cleanup and identification of who will pay for it and in a way that will bind the property for the next generation without any say from the true owners, the American people.

The original donor of Virgin Islands National Park and Caneel Bay Resort, Laurance Rockefeller, clearly intended for the property to revert back to the control of the National Park Service by 2023. He wanted to see the property become an important part of Virgin Islands National Park, to be accessible by visitors and residents of St. John.

We want to see Caneel Bay Resort rebuilt. This action should have started immediately after the devastating hurricanes of 2017. The current owners decided to take no cleanup action and refused to negotiate with the National Park Service on a 40-year lease. Instead they’ve tried unsuccessfully to get 60 more years of tax-free, rent-free use of the property. We cannot support that.

Please, call your U.S. representative and senators so that we can begin rebuilding a Caneel Bay Resort under a competitive bid process as soon as possible. For more information, please visit https://friendsvinp.org/caneel-bay/.

Call the leadership at the Department of Interior at (202) 208-3100 or send them an email by visiting https://www.doi.gov/contact-us.

Please urge them to complete the environmental assessment and cleanup of Caneel Bay and begin a competitive process for a new lease of Caneel Bay Resort. Tell them “No non-competitive 40-year lease for CBI Acquisitions, LLC.”

— Todd Sampsell is president of Friends of Virgin Islands National Park