THIS POST IS DATED 5 YEARS PRE-HURRICANE IRMA The St John Tradewinds reports:
Haulover will be transferred to the V.I. National Park later this year
The beautiful, historical land at Haulover on the East End is a favorite of snorkelers, swimmers, kayakers and just about everyone else. Last August the property was put up for sale to, most likely, off-island condominium developers. Before a sale could happen, the St. John Land Conservancy (SJLC) purchased the land to conserve it and protect the public access to it for all residents and visitors. However, the seller had a few conditions. One was that SJLC must transfer ownership of the land to the V.I. National Park. This transfer should take place later this year. Until then, SJLC will continue to steward the property.
“People are very glad Haulover has been saved and are supportive of our preservation efforts,” said George Mercadante, SJLC secretary. “Our first step was to restore the visual purity of Haulover. So we asked that all commercial signs be removed.”
“All but one business promptly removed their advertisement,” said Mercadante. “Next we cleared brush and debris from one side of the road to expand parking. Then we protected the beach from being further eroded by cars.”
Now Haulover beach on the pristine East End of St. John will be forever protected, explained Mercadante. “SJLC has created an umbrella of protection over the entire property,” he said. “Haulover is safeguarded, forever.”
Since falling in love with St. John during family vacations as a teenager, Lauren Mercadante introduced her own husband and children to the island. The sight of condos will never mar the landscape of Haulover Bay thanks to one woman’s desire to give back to the island which has been a part of her life for decades. The family purchased a home in the Coral Bay area and spend a large portion of the year on Love City. While Mercadante has long volunteered for Friends of V.I. National Park doing trail maintenance and as a docent at Annaberg Sugar Mill, this winter she made an impact on the island which will be appreciated for generations.
St. John Land Conservancy and purchased more than three acres of property on the isthmus, saving it forever from development. “I wasn’t planning on this, but we had talked about doing something of this sort for St. John,” said Mercadante. “I assumed wrongly that this niche was taken and I didn’t want to tread on anyone’s toes. But we had talked about doing something to give back to St. John, which we love so much and is such a huge part of my life and my kids’ lives.” Although she didn’t plan on creating a conservation trust during her winter months on St. John, after reading about the possible fate of pristine Haulover Bay on the island’s East End — which was on the market with a motivated seller — in St. John Tradewinds, Mercadante formed the “When I read the article, I was surprised that Haulover was for sale,” she said. “I read the story and that is what started this. I called Raf Muilenburg and we got the ball rolling.”
Attorney Rafael Muilenburg, of Morrisette and Muilenburg, represented the owner of the property, Family Properties Caribbean (FPC) LLC, and its principal David Prevo. FPC was looking into a variety of options for the 3.6 acres of land spread over four parcels, one of which was applying for a Group Dwelling permit to realize the “highest and best use of the land,” Muilenburg previously told St. John Tradewinds.
Possible development for the undisturbed land included up to 28 condominium units on both sides of the narrow Haulover isthmus, which abuts V.I. National Park property. South Haulover beach on Round Bay and North Haulover on Dreekets Bay were both potential sites for condo units.
Thanks to Mercadante, that is exactly what happened. She contacted Muilenburg in February and the two immediately set to work creating the non-profit conservation trust St. John Land Conservancy. The developer was, however, open to selling the land to a conservation trust at a reduced price, Muilenburg previously explained.“David [Prevo] is a longtime fan of the Park, and is intrigued about the benefits for FPC’s nearby development at Dreekets Bay of dedicating this piece as conservation property,” Muilenburg previously said. “As such, FPC would be willing to sell it for conservation at the amount they paid for it about 10 years ago, plus property taxes and other costs incurred, approximately $800,000 total, which is half or less of the likely market price.”