It’s official — the National Park Service is the proud new owner of 58 acres of pristine land in Estate Maho Bay, thanks to $2.25 million in funding from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.
NPS announced last week that the department had officially purchased 58 acres of land within V.I. National Park — including Maho Bay beach and inland property climbing up to the nearby ridge — from Trust for Public Land.
“This is a success story on a number of levels,” said NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis in a prepared statement. “The Trust for Public Land has been out front on Maho Bay, preserving important lands and keeping them undeveloped.”
The Florida-based land conservation non-profit TPL maintained possession of the 58-acre property until NPS was able to pay for it, at the deeply discounted price of $2.25 million.
“The $2.25 million purchase was completed with funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund — fees paid to the government as a result of offshore oil and gas leasing,” according to the prepared statement from NPS.
The land recently transferred is part of the more than 200 acres acquired by TPL in 2006 from the Marsh family heirs.
The entire tract of land, all of which TPL intends to sell to NPS, includes property stretching from the Maho Bay shoreline all the way up to the ridge along Centerline Road and encompasses undisturbed forest, ruins and more.
Since the land is so vast, TPL has been selling NPS portions at a time. This latest sale is the third transfer of Estate Maho Bay land, bringing the total acreage sold by TPL to NPS to 131 acres. The first sale of property was in 2009 and the final portion of land is expected to be sold in 2013.
TPL and NPS officials cheered the latest land transfer as a win for the public, which can continue to enjoy the pristine beach at Maho Bay, home to sting rays, sea turtles and an abundance of fish species.
“The beach at Maho Bay is now protected in perpetuity for the many thousands of visitors and island residents who enjoy the beach each year,” said TPL CEO Will Rogers.
In addition to the pristine shoreline, the upland tropical forest has also been protected.
“It will never be developed,” Rogers said in the NPS prepared statement. “A resort hotel and hundreds of condominiums could have been built there so you can see how critical this project is to the long-term integrity of Virgin Islands National Park.”
The Maho Bay area has a greater value as undeveloped parkland where it will continue to benefit native plant and animal species and serve as a spectacular place for reflection and recreation for park visitors, according to Rogers.
Last week’s land purchase also connects the east and west sectors of VINP for the first time.