St. John Tradewinds News

U.S. Attorney Brings Suit To Remove Individuals from National Park Land

BORDEAUX – After four years of National Park Service efforts at enforcement, the U.S. Attorney has filed suit in U.S. District Court alleging common law trespassing and being a nuisance and seeking the removal of a group of individuals from a parcel of property in Estate Bordeaux in the Virgin Islands National Park, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The federal government’s complaint alleges that 16 individuals are unlawfully occupying and living on National Park land, have illegally erected ten structures on the property and have placed 11 vehicles, abandoned appliances, trash, and livestock on the property, according to the DOJ press release – which identified the location of the property as Parcel No. 5, Estate Bordeaux.

The defendants include Donna Roberts, Lucia Roberts Francis, Gloria Joseph, Keith Frazer, Alveno Herman Sr., Allen E. Roberts II, Edwin Roberts II, Shiree Roberts, Ray Roberts, Lynette Magras, Gaye R. Moses, Sekou Magras, Lenny Liburd, Lee chriustian, Delsa Christian and Katika Kimbo Donovan.

NPS discovered the illegal occupation in 2010 and since that time NPS has engaged in discussions and meetings with the individuals regarding ownership of the property, according to federal officials. NPS presented the individuals with substantial evidence demonstrating the United States ownership of the property, including its recorded deed, surveys and reports by licensed surveyors, the DOJ added.

Under federal law, individuals are prohibited from living on or erecting structures on National Park land without authorization from the NPS, according to the Justice Department complaint.

Since the government initially found three buildings on the property in September 2010, the structures have multiplied to ten, according to the complaint.

“Defendants have littered the property with items including, but not limited to, trash, broken appliances and plastic containers,” the complaint reads. “Defendants have also abandoned vehicles on the property.”

“Defendants have illegally tapped into power lines belonging to the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority to provide their housing structures with power through a series of unburied extension cords that run throughout the property,” the complaint continues.

“The NPS is statutorily obligated the protect Virgin Islands National Park land to ensure that it is open to the public,” U.S. Attorney Ronald W. Sharpe said in the press release. “Individuals who take National Park land for themselves destroy the spirit of the Park and prevent the public from enjoying the Park’s natural beauty.”

“Since the individuals began the unlawfully occupying the property, there have been documented incidents of defendants harassing park visitors, hikers and even adjacent landowners using the public road,” according to the complaint.

“This office and the NPS will defend the integrity of the Park, including by removing unauthorized persons, vehicles, and buildings when necessary,” according to Sharpe.

The civil complaint further alleges that those individuals have installed unauthorized electrical and water lines to the property and made illegal alterations to a public road, according to the press release.

At the same time, NPS gave the individuals every opportunity to substantiate their claim to ownership, DOJ stated. However, the individuals have not produced any evidence to the NPS showing they have a legally cognizable ownership interest in the property, according to the Justice Department complaint.

NPS requested that the individuals voluntarily leave, but the individuals have refused, the complaint alleges.

The complaint alleges the defendants have blocked the public road running through the property and held the property “with force.”

The federal complaint included a history of the property from 1863 through 1953 when Emily Creque conveyed the property to David Stick, who was assembling properties for Laurance S. Rockefeller, and was included in properties which eventually formed the Virgin Islands National Park.

The land was donated to the United States in 1956 for the creation of the Virgin Islands National Park on St. John, according to the complaint. The land was donated on the condition that it be used solely for the creation of the National Park and the National Park Service (NPS) is responsible for managing National Parks, including the Virgin Islands National Park, the complaint states.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Noah Sacks is representing the National Park Service in this case.