Castle Nugent Farms Could be New National Park (VI)

October 31, 2006
Florida

WASHINGTON, D.C. - 10/31/2006 - The Trust For Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit land conservation organization, today applauded the enactment of legislation that authorizes the National Park Service to study the inclusion of the 1,400-acre Castle Nugent Farms on the island of St. Croix within the National Park System. President George W. Bush signed the bill into law on October 11.

The bill, HR 318, was introduced by the Virgin Islands' Delegate in Congress, Donna M. Christensen, who has been a steadfast supporter of conservation efforts in the Virgin Islands and was instrumental in moving this bill forward.

"Enactment of this bill represents a unique opportunity by which we can preserve and interpret this unique piece of Virgin Island history and resources for the benefit of all Americans," said Delegate Christensen.

The property's owners have shown strong interest in seeing this land protected under the auspices of the National Park Service, in order to preserve the natural beauty of the area and provide an economic stimulus to the island through tourism. TPL is working with the owners, the National Park Service and Congresswoman Christensen to realize this dream.

"TPL applauds Congresswoman Christensen for her leadership in advancing the bill through the Congressional labyrinth. The support of the Bush Administration was also critical to the bill's enactment," said Alan Front, Senior Vice President of TPL. "This legislation is a huge step forward in the effort to conserve this special place as part of our National Park system. Protecting the Castle Nugent Farm will preserve ecologically rich and historically significant land -- including pristine beaches and nearly five miles of productive coral reef -- and will showcase the culture and history of the island, offering a major new attraction for tourists and visitors."

"Our old estate has a unique, rich history as one of the longest ongoing cattle ranches in the West Indies," said Caroline Gasperi, owner of Castle Nugent Ranch. "That, along with its incredible natural beauty, makes it very attractive to visitors, and I have long believed that it should be part of our local tourist economy for posterity. I want to thank Congresswoman Donna Christensen, National Park Service Superintendent Joel Tutein and The Trust for Public Land, all of whom share my vision and have championed my dream."

Castle Nugent Farms is the largest parcel of privately held land in the Virgin Islands and has been an operating cattle ranch for more than fifty years. The owners raise Senepol cattle, which is a unique breed developed on the island in the early 1900's. The natural resources of the property include Caribbean dry forest, pristine coastal lands, and the largest and healthiest fringing coral reef in the Virgin Islands. Cultural resources include signs of pre-Columbian settlement and a large historic 17th Century Danish estate house.

St. Croix has a rare opportunity to create its own unique new national park at the 1,400-acre Castle Nugent Farms. The oceanfront property features a magnificent tropical environment that hosts a diverse natural habitat with unusual sea turtle and bird populations.

"We are looking forward to conducting the Special Resource Study on Castle Nugent Farm," said Joel Tutein, NPS Superintendent. "This study will afford the people of St. Croix the opportunity to participate in voicing their support and concerns of adding another property on St. Croix as part of the National Park System. Public involvement and participation are critical to the National Park Service when considering the addition of new areas to the park system. The Gasperi/Wall family should be commended for their vision of protecting both natural and cultural resources on the farm and their willingness to continue to provide great open space for public enjoyment for the people of this community."

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 2.2 million acres of land in 45 states. The Trust for Public Land depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve our land for people mission. For more information please contact us at (850) 222-7911 or visit us on the web at www.tpl.org/florida.