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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Saving Maho

I am not sure if I've mentioned this before (wink, wink), but my favorite place in the whole, wide world is the Virgin Islands. And in those Virgin Islands is a little slice of sand and a big drink of water that they call Maho.

Here's a picture of what I like to think of as "heaven on earth."


Now, this is Maho beach which is part of the National Park and is supposed to stay this pristine and beautiful for eternity, but up the road just a little ways is Maho Bay Camps, which is considered by just about everyone to be the world's first eco-resort. It was environmentally friendly tourism before anyone knew what environmentally friendly tourism was.

The land underneath Maho Bay Camps is privately owned, and the family that owns it is beginning to see dollar signs. A quick look on any St. John real estate Web site and at the rental listings for these mega-mansion villas and timeshare resorts on St. Thomas, and it doesn't take long to see why. This land has the potential to make a lot of money. (Not that it's not making plenty of money now with people renting tents at $130/night in the high season; it's just not making a lot of money for THEM.)

So, Maho Bay Camps is for sale, and this little girl is pretty damn scared that they are going to put in some all-inclusive resort with people in designer tennis duds, those swimsuits you can't actually get wet and -- worse yet -- evening wear. So, two things will happen: the prima donnas who vacation on all the more popular islands of the Caribbean will start coming to St. John. And then a few things might happen after that: 1) St. John will be full of people in fancy clothes bitching about how "primitive" it is, which is so not the vibe of St. John or 2) St. John will change to accommodate these people and there'll be cabana boys at Trunk Bay, which is also so not the vibe of St. John, and then also there is likely scenario 3) St. John will get so expensive that only rich bitches who want a vacation with evening wear and cabana boys will be able to afford it.

All of these things scare me. I'm not going to lie. If you're not scared, I want you to scroll on up to that picture I posted and imagine that same pristine water filled with little yellow snorkeling vests from the resort and all the cruise ship people. You can't get much scarier than that, really.

The whole point of this rant is that I want everyone I know to know a little more about the story of Maho Bay Camps and the Trust for Public Land's crusade to save them and make them part of the National Park. While I'm not against private development, I really don't see the point in making an eco-resort into a) a mega resort with pod people b) luxury villas for people who are probably going to bitch about Skinny Legs, Woody's and all the other holes in the wall that I love or c) one, big giant compound for some rich SOB that's just going to muck up the scenic views.

It was Margaret Mead who said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has," and I truly believe that. So, I'm asking anyone who can to become part of the small group of thoughtful, committed citizens who are working with TPL to save Maho.

For more information or to make a donation, visit

Thanks for listening to me rant. I promise my next Maho story will involve rum punch, sand in inappopriate places, Bob Marley and -- if you're lucky -- a donkey.

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