A Tale of Two Projects…

Terry Mock, SLDI Co-founder

By Terry Mock
Follow Terry on Twitter: @SustainLandDev

August 2009

The planners of a destination resort in the pristine Metolius River Basin of Oregon envisioned it as a sustainable community that would improve the health of the forest around it. The Metolian resort would have had energy-efficient homes built with nontoxic materials, equipped with solar hot-water heaters and landscaped with native plants, according to its plans. It would use water collected from rainfall and waterways flush with seasonal snowmelt, and be designed to encourage people to get out and enjoy the surrounding forest. A stewardship fund set up by the resort would fund numerous conservation projects in the basin — all part of the plan for the proposed eco-resort.

But it would be its 180-unit lodge and 450 single-family homes that would make the $215 million resort pencil out. The bottom line for environmentalists was that for all the talk of green, eco-friendly designs, the Metolian still represented a new subdivision that could double the population of the Metolius basin and have an undeniable negative impact. So on July 15th, Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski signed House Bill 3298, designating the Metolius River area as an Area of Critical State Concern (ACSC) – shutting the door on destination resorts in the area. “This designation and the corresponding management plan protect the basin from large-scale development that is inconsistent with the unique environmental, cultural and scenic values and resources of the basin,” the governor’s news release stated.

What if Sustainable Land Developers Were Seen As Hope For The Future?

Thirty years ago, long before any official green-building guidelines existed, developer Stanley Selengut leased 14 acres of land along the two, smile-shaped coves of Maho Bay on the U.S. Virgin Island of St. John. Over the next few years, he built 114 one-room, wood-and-vinyl tents behind the turpentine and kapok trees. The canopy they created loomed above wooden walkways that hovered over the soil so visitors wouldn’t damage the ground cover as they walked down to the beach or up to the restaurant pavilion, which was tucked back on a cliff overlooking the ocean. Water and electricity lines were laid beneath the walkways, precluding the need for trenches.

“When I finished building the place, it looked like it had grown there,” Selengut says.

Maho Bay Camps is a model for private developers and the National Park Service alike, according to Robert Stanton, who served four years as superintendent of Virgin Islands National Park before becoming director of the Park Service from 1997 to 2001.

“This is a textbook example of how development can be sustainable as well as compatible with the environment,” he said.

The concept Selengut pioneered 30 years ago has been validated by the million-plus visitors who have stayed in his Maho Bay resort without affecting the clarity of the waters.

“I didn’t see why human comfort and environmental sensitivity couldn’t be compatible,” he says. “I still don’t.” Now, the original long-term lease on the property is about to expire and a frantic effort has begun to save Maho Bay Camps – spearheaded by local residents, former resort guests, and a non-profit, the Trust for Public Lands, in order preserve this iconic example of sustainable land development and to prevent more intense commercial and residential use of the now world-famous location.

The irony of the above tale is that one project storyline portrays land development as a curse, while the other sees it as a blessing. SLDI is committed to a mission that will assure a future where the latter is the rule, rather than the exception.

Your participation and comments are welcome.

THE MAN – Turning Vision into Mission
Paradise Lost? The world’s 1st eco-resort
Interview with Stanley Selengut, the “Grandfather of Sustainable Resort Development”
A True Eco-Resort in St. John – USVI
Trust for Public Lands – Saving Maho Bay Camps

Sustainable Land Development Initiative

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SLDI Co-founders:
Terry Mock
Tony Wernke

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7 responses

  1. UPDATE:

    November 19, 2011
    Lease Extention

    The Maho landowners have just extended the lease through June of 2013. I agreed to this with great relief. This last lease extension will offer everyone an opportunity to enjoy Maho for two more winter seasons.

    I will not accept another short-term extension. We will either get a long-term lease which will allow for some wonderful capital improvements and investment in new technologies or close at the end of the lease in June 2013.

    You can imagine the stress and anxiety of our employees, boat captains, artists, concessionaires and all the small businesses who make Maho special, not knowing if they have a job next year and who need to prepare for their own future.

    This additional year means a great deal to our guests, staff, and the Island of St. John. It means that we all get extra time to do or redo some of our most favorite things. It has been a tough year for many which meant the possibility of not visiting Maho one last time. We hope this will afford you the opportunity. There is a special magic here that cannot be found anywhere else, and we are all grateful to have just a little more time to enjoy it.

    I hope you are as excited as we are about this extra time we have acquired. For all of you that have already booked for May 2012, have no worries. We will be changing those rates back to our standard low season rates and will adjust your reservations accordingly.

    Once again, I am so pleased to be able to share this news with everyone and hope to see you at Maho.


    Stanley Selengut
    Posted by Maho Bay Camps at 11:01 AM

  2. UPDATE from Maho Bay
    September 28, 2012

    Good Day Maho and Concordia Fans,

    As promised, we do our best to keep you updated. Many of you are concerned about the future of Maho Bay. So, here is the story as we currently know it.

    A few weeks ago, we were informed by the land owners that they have recently concluded initial discussions with a buyer for the property and they wish to send two people down to perform a site and environmental inspection. So, two weeks ago, those people arrived. They walked the entire property, taking pictures and samples, asking questions and taking notes. By the end of it all, we still have no clue what is going to happen to the campground, who the buyer is or their intentions. All that we are guaranteed is that there has been no extension for Maho Bay Camps. Therefore, we continue to make plans for one last great season and then close our tent flaps on May 15, 2013. This will give us time to vacate by lease end on June 30… http://www.maho.org/Destinations.cfm

  3. From: Newsletter@Maho.org
    Sent: Friday, December 21, 2012
    Subject: Maho Bay Camps: A message from Stanley

    As a new year approaches, I must face up to closing Maho this coming May 15, 2013. As you have noticed on past visits, through the Trash To Treasure program, the Help Yourself Center, and our energy and water saving efforts, I abhor waste. At Maho’s closing, I will have to dispose of over 500 mattresses, mattress protectors, pillows, blankets, chairs, etc. and over 100 tables, camp stoves, propane bottles, coolers, etc. plus countless linens, tools, tablewares, on and on. I could organize a yard sale but these things might be a blessing in Haiti, a refugee camp or other places of need.

    I wish the Maho left overs to be of benefit and I am willing to donate them. If you know of a charity or organization who will transport and distribute these goods, please contact me at stanley@maho.org. I look forward to your ideas.


    Stanley Selengut

  4. UPDATE:
    St. John Source
    Stanley Selengut Reflects on 37 Years of Maho Bay Camps

    By Lynda Lohr — April 25, 2013

    ….“It has been very profitable but some of the rewards were more important than money,” he said, speaking about the resort’s focus on the environment and his beloved Trash to Treasures program.

    Selengut also made a name for himself in environmental circles, receiving slews of honors and serving a term on the prestigious National Park Service advisory board.

    He hosted numerous conferences that included the Building a Destination for All symposium in 2005 that highlighted ways to make St. John more accessible to disabled people.

    As for what’s ahead, Selengut and his wife are off on a cruise aboard the Queen Mary that will take them to Europe…. http://stjohnsource.com/content/news/local-news/2013/04/25/stanley-selengut-reflects-37-years-maho-bay-camps

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