A Tale of Two Perspectives: Economic Growth through Environmental Development

Internet use and multi-media documentation has facilitated community education in the recent movement to “Save Mandahl Bay” on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. While opposing stories and letters have been shared in the local online and print newspapers, Mrs. Anna Wallace-Francis of Camp Umoja and Friends of Mandahl Bay are actively strategizing towards preserving the natural environment on St. Thomas.

Anna Wallace-Francis and First Lady CECILLE DEJONGH

Anna Wallace-Francis with First Lady Cecille deJongh during a tour of Camp Umoja and the Mandahl Bay Area. Photo ©SankofaSaturdays

Using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Wallace-Francis shared that when attempting to research desired public documents, they still experienced various challenges with obtaining information. Waiting days longer than they felt were necessary for recently filed documents, the repeated inability to reach specific persons and realizing that some documents were unavailable due to being destroyed as a directive from higher authority were a few of their experiences.

Nevertheless, to facilitate educating the public, Friends of Mandahl Bay have pooled their skills and research knowledge to share the public government documents on their blog, including the development agreement, lease agreement and deeds related to Mandahl Bay.

Camp Umoja Welcome Wall

Anna Wallace-Francis with First Lady Cecille deJongh during a tour of Camp Umoja and the Mandahl Bay Area.

Camp Umoja’s Mandahl Bay area tours, similar to one held on Dec 13, 2014 with the Hotel Association and St. Thomas Chamber of Commerce including the First Lady Cecille deJongh, also help to educate the community on concerns of those in favor or opposed to transforming the Mandahl Salt Pond area to build a new “300-room Hyatt Regency Hotel,” according to a VI Daily News story.

If developers are eventually successful with building, a concern is that too often, local people are not qualified to make more than substantial salaries. “If we don’t have the skills or bonds to build a marina, then those jobs wouldn’t come to us. Those jobs would probably go to people flown in from Puerto Rico or elsewhere and the remaining service-oriented jobs would offer low wages, which still leaves Virgin Islands people needing to work two jobs,” shared Wallace-Francis.

Knowing locals who, with support, could start their own eco-tourism, agri-tourism and culture-tourism businesses almost immediately, Wallace-Francis shared that she felt entrepreneurship instead is in the best interest of helping the community.

Wallace-Francis provides eco-tours as well as kayaking, snorkeling and other environmental or educational activities. Local youth programs including student interns from the University of the Virgin Islands and Syracuse University’s collaborations have already benefitted from workshops on the campground’s location. She also envisions the ability to add horseback riding, sustainable cottage industries as well as cultural productions, performances, along with more educational marine-life and sustainable agriculture workshops.

Using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Wallace-Francis shared that when attempting to research desired public documents, they still experienced various challenges with obtaining information. Waiting days longer than they felt were necessary for recently filed documents, the repeated inability to reach specific persons and realizing that some documents were unavailable due to being destroyed as a directive from higher authority were a few of their experiences.

Port of Mandahl Project New Jobs List

Proposed New Jobs with the Port of Mandahl Proj

Nevertheless, to facilitate educating the public, Friends of Mandahl Bay have pooled their skills and research knowledge to share the public government documents on their blog, including the development agreement, lease agreement and deeds related to Mandahl Bay.

Photo/Video Footage Collage from the Tour on Dec 13, 2014

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