Land Added to Salt River Bay NP (U.S. VI)

St. Croix, Virgin Islands, 3/3/04 – The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit land conservation organization, today announced that it has conveyed 8.5 acres to the Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve, the only location in the United States where Christopher Columbus landed during any of his voyages to the New World. The property is situated on a hill overlooking the park and the Caribbean Sea. It includes a two-story 5,800-square foot house that will become a visitor center and museum. The National Park Service (NPS) will manage the land.

Funding for the project was provided by the Land & Water Conservation Fund, with strong support from U.S. Virgin Islands Delegate Donna M. Christian-Christensen, ranking member of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation and Public Lands.

“We have waited for a long time for the National Park Service to have an actual presence at the bay,” said Delegate Christensen, who was instrumental in securing the $2.2 million to acquire and protect the property. “This will provide a management presence on site at Salt River that would better enable the Park Service to monitor activities and stop the erosion of one of our most precious resources,” she said. “The benefits to the people of the Virgin Islands are not just cultural and educational, but of economic value as well as it provides a welcome addition to our tourism product.”

Visitors to Salt River Bay National Historical Park will appreciate the convenience of the center’s location and will benefit from exhibits interpreting the park’s historical significance and natural wonders. An operations center housing enforcement and maintenance personnel and functions also will be located in the site.

“The national parks in the U.S. Virgin Islands are some of the most beautiful in the world, and this property welcomes visitors with spectacular views and historic charm,” said Greg Chelius, director of TPL’s Florida Office. “We are very pleased to have played a part in preserving this historic natural treasure.” Chelius said the transaction was made possible in part by a generous donation of land value by the property’s owners, Dr. and Mrs. Peter Kumpitch. The Kumpitches have lived on St. Croix for over 30 years and are moving to another home nearby.

Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Reserve was established in 1992. Located on the north coast of St. Croix, about six miles from Christiansted, it includes the only place in present-day U.S. territory where members of a Christopher Columbus expedition landed, an event which took place during his second voyage in 1493. The landing was recorded in Columbus’s log book, which makes it the first documented encounter between Europeans and the pre-Columbian population of the Americas. Among the pre-Columbian archaeological finds have been the only ceremonial ball court ever discovered in the lesser Antilles, burial grounds, and village middens. The site also contains an earthworks fortification built by the Dutch in the 1600s. The natural treasures of the park and preserve are found in the upland watersheds, mangrove forests, and estuarine and marine environments.

“We would like to thank Dr. Peter & Joan Kumpitch, the Secretary of the Interior, the Director of National Park Service, our Delegate to Congress, and TPL for their hard work and dedication to making this a reality for Salt River Bay National Park,” said Joel Tutein, park superintendent.

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’s has helped protect more than 1.6 million acres of land in 45 states. Working in the Virgin Islands, TPL has protected six sites totally 160 acres. 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 (415) 495-4014 or visit us on the web at