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Salt Island: The Forgotten & Neglected Island- Part 3 of 3

Edgar Leonard. Photo: Provided
Salt Island is a small, approximately 0.3 square mile island in the [British] Virgin Islands. Photo: Google Earth
Salt Island is a small, approximately 0.3 square mile island in the [British] Virgin Islands. Photo: Google Earth
Edgar Leonard

In Parts 1 and 2, I waxed/rant about the hardy and industrious Salt Island people, the place, the proud, rich history, and heritage; basic, simple, and idyllic lifestyle; of my ancestral homeland's forgotten and neglected situation. In Part 3, I will offer some suggestions on the way forward.

Though the core of the series of commentaries was the forgotten and neglected status of Salt Island, some green shoots are indicating a Salt Island rebirth, a renaissance. On January 14, 2022, the Hon Vincent O. Wheatley (D-9), Minister of Natural Resources, Labour, and Immigration, issued a press release announcing the approval and establishing of a long-awaited Salt Island Advisory Committee (SILAC).

The Salt Island land distribution is a significant special project/initiative. Its success will be a function of SILAC and the Government working closely, collectively, cooperatively, and collaboratively to attain a positive outcome. Expressly, the Government must authorise and appropriate funding and other resources to assist SILAC in meeting its goals and objectives.

As such, incident to the announcement and in this commentary, I will offer some cursory suggestions on a) Salt Island Council, b) Master Plans, c) Cooperatives, d) Historical Landmarks, e) Coastal/Marine Protection Area(s), f) Salt Breaking Revival, g) Tax Increment Financing (TIF), h) Breakwaters, i) Land Management and Planning, j) Working Capital/Seed Money, among other suggestions.

Salt Island Council

It is unclear if SILAC is just an ad hoc committee or whether it will double and continue in the day-to-day management of Salt Island internal affairs. Nonetheless, the House of Assembly (HOA) may want to consider passing a Salt Island Council Act. The Council can be modeled after the Barbuda (sister island of Antigua) Local Government Council, comprising 5-7 members and elected to serve 3-4-year terms.

Its responsibilities can include assisting with a) land management and planning, b) coastal/marine protection, c) fishing, d) social welfare and disaster planning, preparing and managing, d) works and general-purpose, e) finance/revenue, e) transportation, f) health, g) education, h) amenities, i) agriculture, etc. Further, the 'Settlement' area should be a communal area administered by the Council. The Council too can revive, manage and promote the once traditional "Salt Breaking" event/bacchanal.

Plan of Action and Milestone (POA&M) Report

The SILAC should conduct town hall meetings and workshops, solicit individual and group inputs, and organize briefings and tours of the island for the Salt Island diaspora/stakeholders. Consult with third parties, conduct further research as needed, and prepare a POA&M Report for the Ministry of Natural Resources, Labour, and Immigration. Additionally, SILAC should make a presentation to the HOA.

Boundary/Property and Subdivision Survey Plan

A critical and crucial action in the land distribution planning, programming, budgeting, etc., process is surveying. Consequently, SILAC must launch/propose a comprehensive property and a subdivision (platting) survey project. Government should authorize and appropriate adequate funding for the survey project. Suggest using LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology to conduct the survey. LIDAR is quick, relatively accurate, and flexible (the system can be mounted on many platforms, viz, tripods, planes, helicopters, drones). Identify any land that Government requires for its use during the process.

Master Planning

Salt Island is small uninhabited, and undeveloped, lacking basic infrastructure and utilities, i.e., electricity, water, wastewater, gas, drainage, port(s), roads, ferry service, and telecommunications. Consequently, its repopulation and development require developing, funding, managing, and executing many master plans: environmental, infrastructure, utilities, economic development, engineering/architectural/construction, transportation, feasibility study(s), budget priorities, cultural assets management, facility, and site. Again, government funding is critical in this effort.

Cultural Assets

The two salt ponds, man-head (Lion's head), and burial sites should be protected, added to the Virgin Islands (VI) (British) Historic Register, and managed by the Council.

Coastal/Marine Protection

Like the rest of the VI, Salt Island is highly vulnerable to climate change, i.e., sea-level rise, coastal erosion, and flooding. Further, Salt Island Bay, the main harbour, is unprotected. Consequently, the Government should install breakwaters to calm/break/de-energise the waves to prevent/minimize shore erosion and provide safe berthing. Additionally, evaluate the 'Sound' area to ascertain if it should be designated a marine protected area. Moreover, a study should be conducted for the longer term to determine if a seawall would benefit Salt Island Bay.


There will be scores, if not hundreds, of applications for a plot of land on Salt Island. However, Salt Island is a small, approximately 0.3 square mile island. Consequently, as noted in Part 1, some individuals/families may not be successful in acquiring a plot. Thus, given the high demand, the SILAC will have a difficult challenge apportioning the land; however, the challenge is surmountable though some applicants may not be satisfied.

Nevertheless, it (SILAC) must devise a balanced, sensible, smart, fair, and reasonable proposed land distribution plan to the maximum extent possible and practice. Fairmindedness and willingness to compromise must be a core component of the land distribution process. As in other managerial or supervisory decision-making processes, the SILAC will not keep 100% of applicants/customers happy; that is not realistic.

Moreover, even though every man jack, as the saying goes, may not be able to get a land plot, other plans must be devised that can provide the most benefit to the most people. To attain or approach this goal, I suggest forming several cooperatives. For the most part, the cooperatives must be home-based, out of Salt Island, providing investment opportunities, use, quiet and enjoyment, etc., primarily for Salt Island descendants.

The cooperatives can/may include a) marina(s), b) fishing/fishing fleets, c) ferry operations, d) retail operations, e) boating operations (glass boat bottom tours, diving, fishing trips), f) dining establishments, g) hospitality (hotels, villas, multi-family, Airbnb, cabins), h) small farming, i) handicraft, j) salt harvesting, etc. These potential possibilities will require feasibility studies.

Tax Increment Financing

Funding will be needed to roll out the land distribution project, i.e., infrastructure, utilities, construction, etc. In addition to regular maintenance and operations dollars authorised and appropriated for Salt Island, any tax revenue increase incident to the island development should be diverted to repay any borrowing costs and for continued growth.

Finally, Salt Island is poised and approaching the dawn of a new day, a new era, a rebirth, and a renaissance. However, it will require the cooperation, collaboration, and cohesion of Salt Island descendants/diaspora to make it happen.

Edgar Leonard is a native Virgin Islander of Salt Island subtract, an amateur freelance writer, and a Florida A&M University graduate. 

11 Responses to “Salt Island: The Forgotten & Neglected Island- Part 3 of 3”

  • Stealth (17/01/2022, 14:51) Like (3) Dislike (2) Reply
    Leonard, good read. But you thinking big and going long for moonshots, ie, Salt Island Council, Cooperatives, Master Plans, Breakwaters and so on. Most people, I think, just want a spot as, perhaps, a quiet vacation getaway. Anyway, the info was a good template of a path forward.
  • East End SI Connection (17/01/2022, 16:20) Like (4) Dislike (1) Reply
    E. Leonard, thanks for your contribution in bringing the Salt situation to the world. As you noted in the commentaries, Salt Island people has a rich history, heritage and culture, surviving by banding together to support one another. Nonetheless, the Salt Island people are on the verge of oblivion. The Salt Island people were a close people, a family. But it seems an ugly mindset is setting in driven by greed and selfishness. The press release announcing the approval of the Salt Island Land Advisory Committee has only been out for a few days but the nastiness, ugliness, etc has surface, albeit it may be by only a few greedy The crab in the bucket mentality is coming embarrassingly front and center. Family, come on, for we are and are better than this. This behaviour is causing our forefathers to toss restlessly in their resting places. If this is the way we are going to behave, the government should ‘jus en cheif’ Keep it. Who beks, beks.
  • Ne Timeas (17/01/2022, 18:12) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    E. Leonard, good read. Like courage to think outside the box. I’m watching the Salt Island issue with great interest to see if we will avoid mistakes of the past relative to land management. A number of islands in the Virgin Islands chain have changed hands, ie, Necker, Scrub and others. Just as outsiders can take the birthright of Virgin Islanders and benefit vastly from it, so why can’t Virgin Islanders do the same? They can and must. Virgin Islanders must join forces and pool their resources/funding for their collective benefit(s). Leonard advocated making the best decisions that can benefit the most people. That is profound. Salt Island descendants must work collectively and cooperatively to make Salt Island benefit Salt Islanders/Virgin Islanders in general and keep Salt Island in Salt Islanders’ hand into perpetuity. Virgin Islanders must become producers, not just consumers. Virgin Islanders must be leaders, not just followers. Virgin Islanders must resist playing second fiddle to others; they must lead proactively from the front.
  • Salt Island Subtract (17/01/2022, 20:33) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
    Cuz, dem tings you proposing will take money and government is broken. CSC is projecting that with an emergency the BVI will go bankrupt. I can see Tortola spending any serious money on Salt Island, the Cay. I wish I could closed my eyes and when I open them the things you proposed would be on a path to happening. But I’m not as optimistic as you are hoping. At best, some may get land, and government build a wharf perhaps. And Salt Island will probably still remain neglected. Keep hope alive Cuz.
  • Salt Island Subtract Road Town (18/01/2022, 08:02) Like (3) Dislike (1) Reply
    Salt Island land distribution is long over due. But I have a number of questions, including: When will the committee have its first meeting and where? How much land will the Commitee have distribute? Will government retain any of the land for its use and if no why not? What is the plan for the Settlement? Will the people who currently have footprint in the Settlement be grandfathered? What was the criteria for determining members of the committee? How was the major family groupings determine? How soon will land titles be issued? What are the actual steps in the land distribution process? What is the Premier, HOA, Governor involvement? Will there be a development, zoning plan (hope it is not a visual disaster like Wickham Cay)? What services, if any, will government provide on the island? Will people outside of the Salt Island diaspora have the opportunity to purchase a piece? Who will be providing oversight to ensure the process is fair? Will the distribution be by family or individual or both? How will government ensure that the land stays in descendants hand? How long will a grantee have to keep property before selling it? How will government prevent/minimize ‘fronting’ ? Will the land be granted based on economics/wealth? Will government have a loan program or loan guarantee programme? Can recipients use land titles as collateral and if no why not? How will foreclosures be handled? Will descendants have priority at foreclosure sale?

    This will be a land grab/land rush. People who in the past didn’t want to associated with having connection to the Cay or even been on the Cay will now rush to find a family link so they can get in line. That has been happening for decades trust me.
    • Salt Island Subtract Road Town 2 (18/01/2022, 11:07) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
      @Salt Island Subtract Road Town, a list of good questions. You have raised many of the questions I have. Edgar, cuz, you went big and ambitious with your proposals. They make sense but neither the government nor the ministry is ready or can afford to go big may be. As noted by others, Salt Island for the foreseeable future will continue to linger in neglect. Hope that I’m so wrong but I’m not going to hold my breath. Salt Island historically never on top of anyone list, not even some with link to Salt Island. Lots of people now will show fake love in hopes of getting a piece of land. I’m not impressed. Signed: proud Salt Island subtract always.
  • Land Distribution v Development (18/01/2022, 20:29) Like (0) Dislike (1) Reply
    This is not a criticism but the SILAC is about Salt Island land distribution, not Salt Island development. Both issues are control by government but development should be led by government. Do not burden the SILAC with development.
  • St. Thomas SI Connection (19/01/2022, 05:56) Like (3) Dislike (1) Reply
    My Family is connected to Salt Island and I have only visited a few times but I’m not very familiar with the history of the Island and its people. Curious, I went to Virgin Islands News on Line archive and read all three parts of Mr. Leonard commentary. It seems as if Salt Island is in unspoiled and a gem. From a far, it seems like a great opportunity for the diaspora to own and enjoy(disclaimer: I’m not personally positioning myself for any land; I good. The people with closer connection and familiarity with the island than me should share and enjoy the ownership). That said, in addition to limited commercial opportunities, it is a great opportunity to get away from Tortola and elsewhere for some priceless rest, recuperation and enjoyment of tropical living. To my distant cousins, I implore you to unite, come together as a family and grab this opportunity. It would be a shame if you due to disunity let outsiders come in and seize the opportunity from you.

    History would and should be mercilessly unkind to you, and your action would be a disservice to the next generations of Salt Islanders. Mr. Leonard, in Part 1 noted that supposedly because of Salt Islanders care and compassion shown for the dead that washed ashore from the demise of RMS Rhone Queen Victoria decreed that Salt Islanders and descendants enjoy Salt Island for perpetuity. Indeed, Salt Island should stay in Salt Islanders hand for perpetuity.

    Family, value and retain the treasure that our ancestors earned and left for you. Let’s buck the trend of locals not seeing the value of these Virgin Islands while others can clearly see the value and leap at the opportunity like white on rice. Land is a precious commodity and a non- renewable resource. Do not be tempted by a few Benjamins.Fam, enjoy the quiet and enjoyment of Salt Island. Unity is strength so use it. Mr. Leonard, Cuz(?), I enjoyed the read.
  • Salt Island Subtract 2 (19/01/2022, 09:44) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
    Thumbs up to St. Thomas Salt Island Connection impassioned pleasure. In my lifetime, I have seen a number of small islands and choice locations, ie, beachfront) disappear from the hands of BVIslanders for chicken feed because they didn’t see or know the value. I also in my lifetime see Salt Island and its people treated as second class citizens. Salt Island, Cooper Island, Peter Island, Ginger Island and so on had no value. Well, that has changed. There is much interest in these islands. Fellow Salt Islanders let’s us be smart, lets unite and make Salt Island work for Salt Islanders. My plea also extend to fam on Cooper Island, ie, the Leonards, Smith, and Abbotts. This post by cuz Edgar was a good read. I also refer you to another of his post on this news site: VI Regentrification.
    • Curious Outsider (19/01/2022, 13:21) Like (0) Dislike (3) Reply
      “My plea extend to fam on Cooper Island, ie, the Leonards, Smiths, and Abbotts,” says Salt Island Subtract 2. This is an interesting tid bit/incite. Thought only the Leonards and the few expats they sold land to own land on Cooper Island. Do the Smiths and Abbotts too own land on Cooper Island? Which Smith and Abbott? Wonder I can lean on them to acquire a piece. Not holding my breath though, for locals don’t like to sell to locals.
  • Political Observer (PO) (20/01/2022, 12:21) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    There is much to mine or consider in this commentary. It makes sense that the land distribution and master planing go together as hand and in glove. As many have noted, with just land distribution, Salt Island will move little from its current neglected state. As a political animal, the Salt Island Council proposal peek my interest. I endorse the suggestion for Salt Island and it should extend to VG, Anegada, Jost Van Dyke….etc. It provides the opportunity for locals to assist the territorial/national government in governing, training vehicle for locals to gain experience to pursue positions of increasing responsibilities, etc.

    Agree with Stealth that E. Leonard proposals for Salt Island in this commentary are moonshots and out the box thinking and vision. Will they get any traction and attraction from government? Moreover, looking outward with a wider lens, the BVI needs a moonshot approach and attitude. Barbados PM Mia Mottley has a moonshot attitude; she just led the Barbados Labour Party to a 30-0 shellacking of the opposition, giving her mandate to launch those moonshots.

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