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Mon Jan 20, 2020, 07:41 PM

Caneel Bay: Why a Caribbean Paradise Remains in Ruins

Source: New York Times

Caneel Bay: Why a Caribbean Paradise Remains in Ruins

Two years after back-to-back hurricanes struck St. John, the famed Caneel Bay Resort has not reopened. The stormsí lingering aftermath laid bare the eco-resortís long-festering problems.

By Emily Palmer
Jan. 20, 2020
Updated 12:03 p.m. ET

Browned palm leaves fan over the white-sand beaches of Caneel Bay Resort. Peeling paint buckles on the exterior walls of roofless cabins. Inside, white curtains, still knotted, drape like ripped cobwebs from windows, and mold-matted mattresses sag without their frames. A back door swings wide.

Long considered the crown jewel of St. John, a small emerald island found among the U.S. Virgin Islands and cut with curved bays and set against the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, the 170 secluded acres of Caneel Bay once drew presidents, movie stars and literary icons ó from John Steinbeck and Lady Bird Johnson to Meryl Streep and Mitch McConnell.

More than 15,000 people annually visited the property nestled within the Virgin Islands National Park and home to a handful of endangered species. The four-star eco-resort, established by the Rockefeller family, was one of the first in the United States.

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While the hurricanes ripped apart the resortís infrastructure in a matter of hours, the stormsí lingering aftermath laid bare its long-festering problems, which include an unorthodox land-use agreement with the federal government, possible environmental contamination that predated the storms and contentious relationships between the staff and management. Together, they have stalled the resortís reconstruction and hurt the islandís economy.

Caneel Bayís future is tied up in a dispute between its owner, CBI Acquisitions, which took over the resort in 2004, and the National Park Service, which owns the land where Caneel Bay sits. CBI Acquisitions says they cannot afford to rebuild unless they get an extension of their right to control and use the resort property from the Park Service.

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Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/20/travel/st-john-caneel-bay-resort.html

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