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"Sandy Cay, Oh Sandy Cay . . . "

Posted on May 15, 2008

The following accounts taken from the press and program documents provide background on the latest phase of Island Resources Foundation’s eight-year engagement with the government and the National Parks Trust of the British Virgin Islands. Two principals involved at the start of this process (Laurance S. Rockefeller himself, and Dr. Ed Towle, whose vision guided much of the design and implementation of the eight year process) are no longer with us, but their spirit was invoked by many of the officials of the transfer. Although the actual transfer of Sandy Cay from Laurance Rockefeller to the BVI is a major step in the Government’s protected areas programmes, the Foundation will continue to be involved in maintenance and monitoring activities to be conducted through the BVI National Parks Trust or based on monitoring activities for the donor.

For a picture of Sandy Cay and scans of the official programme printed for the “Ceremony to mark the Official Transfer of Sandy Cay,” see our new photo set of the entire process in the slideshow at
[excerpted from and expanding upon a news story by: BVI Platinum News at]
Friday, May 02, 2008

Sandy Cay is now in the hands of the British Virgin Islands Government and as best described in the words of a song written and composed by Teacher Lavern D. Blyden and sung by the elementary students of the Jost van Dyke School, “Oh Sandy Cay, oh Sandy Cay, we’re happy you’ve come back to we” (to the tune of O Tannenbaum).
The official signing and transfer ceremony of Sandy Cay was held at the Joseph Reynolds O’Neal Botanic Gardens on May 1, 2008 in the presence of Premier and Minister of Finance, the Honorable Ralph T. O’Neal, the Honorable Omar W. Hodge Minister of Natural Resources and Labour, the Honorable Alvin Christopher representative for the 2nd district and Minister of Natural Resources and Labour when the transfer was first proposed in 2003, Mr. Clayton W. Frye, Jr., executor of the Estate of Laurance S. Rockefeller, Mr. William Moody distinguished Fellow of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and residents of Jost Van Dyke, Virgin Gorda, and Tortola.

The ceremony was chaired by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour, Mr. Clyde Lettsome.

Delivering the opening remarks, the Honorable Alvin Christopher thanked the representatives of the Rockefeller estate for the gift and recalled when he learnt from Foxy that Green Cay was for sale and his successful endeavor to keep it in the hands of the people, as part of a larger plan to create a marine protected area that would include the cays and reefs to the north and east of Jost van Dyke, from Little Jost to Sandy Spit, Green Cay and Sandy Cay.

Also presenting remarks at the official signing over ceremony was Dr. Michael O’Neal, Chairman of the BVI National Parks Trust and President of the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College of the Virgin Islands and the Honorable Omar Hodge. Hon. Hodge in his remarks referred to the occasion as “A prodigal son comes home”. Hon. Hodge said “we have been talking about this for over 7 years and the donation is much much more than the transfer of land”. He said this transfer will have a lasting impact on the people of the BVI. He also added that he is pleased to announce the adoption of the protected area for recreation and fishing. Hon. Hodge thanked Mr. Wes Frye for the years of service to the project.

Mr. William Moody, former Program Officer and currently a Distinguished Fellow of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, said he was glad to have worked on the 14-acre Island that Laurance Rockefeller loved, nurtured and owned for 50 years and expressed special thanks to Dr. Michael O’Neal and NPT staff Director Joseph Smith-Abbott, Deputy Director Ms. Esther Georges, Nancy Pascoe Woodruff, Planning Officer and others from the Trust for their commitment throughout the eight-year-long Rockefeller-funded technical assistance and capacity building program referred to as the Sandy Cay project.

The Sandy Cay project consisted of three phases between 2000 and 2008, planned and coordinated by Island Resources Foundation to ensure that the Government of the BVI, the National Parks Trust, and the associates of Laurance Rockefeller who administer the affairs of his estate, share a mutual understanding and commitment to fulfilling Mr. Rockefeller’s expectations that Sandy Cay would be maintained in perpetuity as a freely available, publicly accessible managed wilderness area.

Two “heroes” of Caribbean Conservation, Laurance S. Rockefeller and Dr. Edward L. Towle, founder of Island Resources Foundation, who had partnered in many projects crucial to the development of a true local conservation conscience in the Caribbean over four decades were directly and intimately involved in the beginning of this project. Unfortunately both passed on before the transfer was completed, but the vision and commitment of both these important influences in the Virgin Islands– the fabulously rich entrepreneur with vision and a heart, and the genius with a vision and boundless energy to see it implemented — were recognized by several speakers in the course of the transfer ceremonies.

Some of the major products of the 8-year project are listed below, but it also should be noted that monitoring of the condition of the island and additional support to the Trust will be provided for several years by the Rockefeller Estate through Island Resources Foundation.

The Sandy Cay Project (2000-2008)

— Ecosystem Characterization (2000 – 2001)
Creation of an environmental profile of the Sandy Cay ecosystem by Island Resources Foundation.

— Legal Environment for the BVI National Parks Trust (2002)
An overview and assessment of the National, Regional and International Laws and Treaties Governing the Role of the British Virgin Islands National Parks Trust.

— Legislative Review Process (2001 – 2007)
Revision of the National Parks Ordinance of 1961 and the Marine Parks and Protected Areas Ordinance of 1979.

— Management Planning (2001)
The development of a Management Plan for Sandy Cay by Island Resources Foundation.

— Environmental Impact Assessment for Rat Eradication Program, Sandy Cay, British Virgin Islands (2002)
Documentation of the proposed effects, verified by subsequent project implementation and follow-up monitoring, of eradicating alien invasive rats then rampant on Sandy Cay.

— Habitat Restoration (2002)
Eradication of Black Rats (Rattus rattus) from Sandy Cay, BVI; and initiation of a long-term Monitoring Program, still ongoing.

— Training (2002 & 2004)
Training opportunities for National Parks Trust Board members and staff.

— Sandy Cay User Guidelines (2004)
Guidelines prepared at the request of the BVI Tourist Board and Film Commission. The Guidelines were specifically designed to assist the Tourist Board in providing better oversight of commercial filming and fashion photography at Sandy Cay.

— Financial Management (2005)
Development of Fiscal Management Guidelines for the National Parks Trust and completion of annual financial audits.

— Policy Formulation (2006)
Creation of a Board Operations Manual for guidance on the Trust’s governance process, including features unique under the new legislation and regulations.

— Protected Area Planning Process (2004 – 2007)
Revision of the 1981 and 1984 versions of the System Plan of Protected Areas for the BVI.

— Updated Legislation (March 2006)
Approval of the National Parks Trust Act Number 4 of 2006.

— Management Planning (2007)
Development of an Implementation Plan for the National Parks Act, No. 4 of 2006, and a site Management Plan for Sandy Cay by the BVI National Parks Trust.

— BVI System Plan of Protected Areas (January 2008)
Approval of the British Virgin Islands Protected Areas System Plan 2007 – 2017. This plan includes all 21 existing park sites and all the marine and terrestrial areas that are proposed as protected areas.

— Updated Legislation (April 2008)
Approval of the National Parks Trust Regulations 2008.

— Four Decades of Site Maintenance and Environmental Monitoring at Sandy Cay, British Virgin Islands, 1968 – 2008
A report by Jean Pierre Bacle and Judith Towle summarizing the historic pattern and activities of site maintenance and monitoring performed under the direction of Laurance Rockefeller, to serve as general guidance for future management of the Cay.

— Transferal of Sandy Cay (May 1st 2008)
Donation of Sandy Cay from the Estate of Mr. Laurance S. Rockefeller to the BVI Government and the designation of the Cay as a protected area under the management of the BVI National Parks Trust.

Following the official signing, the Premier thanked Mr. Rockefeller for giving Sandy Cay back to the BVI and said that in years to come, the children and grandchildren and generations to come will thank their forefathers for the vision in preserving these parks. He asked the Ministers to ensure that Mr. Rockefeller’s wishes are well met in taking good care of the parks and that people can go and relax and enjoy the parks.

A painting of Sandy Cay by Virgin Islands artist Reuben Vanterpool was presented to the Rockefeller group from the Government and people of the British Virgin Islands in appreciation for the gift of this precious national resource.

The day after the transferal of Sandy Cay, a special trip to Sandy Cay was arranged by the National Parks Trust for the various parties to the transfer and the students of the Jost van Dyke school — many of whom had not previously been to the islet which is only a few hundred yards from Jost van Dyke.

– – – –

After 40-plus years working in internationally-supported development projects, I know that the two rarest and most necessary ingredients in this complex process are TIME and CONSISTENT support. Thanks to the skills, resources, and mutual confidence of the two principals (Laurance Rockefeller and Ed Towle) who began this conversation about the future of Sandy Cay in 2000, the project has achieved great benefits for the future of all conservation and natural resources management programs and projects in the Territory — just as they both knew would happen.

Thanks to all of our partners, colleagues and supporters for helping to make it possible.

Bruce Potter
Island Resources Foundation

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