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The Department of Agriculture has purchased a parcel of forested land of approximately 70 acres, in the northwest corner of St. Croix.

They hope that it will someday become part of a Maroon Ridge territorial park, which would celebrate the story of the escaped slaves who built a community there.

The land was purchased using funds from the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program, which supplies 75 percent of the purchase price for forests they find to have special ecological value.

Marilyn Chakroff, the forest stewardship program coordinator for Agriculture, said “It doesn’t just have ecological value; it also has cultural and historic value.”

The DOA has received a total of roughly $3 million from the program through grants in 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2010, though until now they have had trouble spending the money on land purchases.

She explained, that since they are federal funds, the money comes with strings attached. The most difficult is the stipulation that the DOA can only offer to pay what the land is appraised for, a figure that is often lower than the owner’s asking price.

“That’s really why it’s taken us so long to actually start spending the money,” she said. The land will be a very interesting tourist point for those on vacation in ST CROIX RENTALS.