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Tuesday, 01 November 2011

Maho Bay Camps: An Endangered Species? - Page 4

Written by Janice Anderson
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That afternoon, I met with Scott Drennen, the general manager of Maho Bay Camps. In his late twenties, Scott’s soft blue eyes matched his Maho Bay “senior management” polo shirt. Like many of the Maho Bay employees, Scott began as a volunteer. Volunteers make up a sizable portion of the work force in the off-season – May to November. It’s a competitive situation; Scott told me that he had just sorted through over six hundred applications for two hundred positions. People come from all over to work for four hours a day in exchange for room and board.

I asked him about the pending end of the lease in July 2012.

“It’s hard that I always have to opt for safety, never aesthetics,” he said. “The short lease only allows us to maintain. If it’s not safe, it gets fixed. Otherwise, no upgrades. I mean, look at that water station.”

He pointed to a wooden table with a garden-hose spigot at the top and clear plastic tubing in front. One of only three across the compound, its faded sign read “potable.” This was where Pat or I brought our five-gallon jug every few days.

“We collect rainwater in cisterns and use that for toilets and laundry,” he explained. “When it runs out, we have to use delivered water. We use three to four times less than the local Westin. But still, that’s 8,000 to 12,000 gallons per day. And it’s expensive; delivered water costs 8.32¢ per gallon.” The cost in the US is well under 1¢ per gallon.

Continual interruptions halted our conversation, mostly with a “Hey” or “What’s up?” Scott stopped one woman that walked by with, “Hey, Jana, how was that hike?” They all seemed to know one another, which might be explained by (or explain) their fifty percent visitor return rate.

“Water’s a finite resource,” Scott said as he faced me again. “For us, it’s not an idea; it’s practical. ‘Think tanks’ in the US discuss using resources efficiently; but here, we’re push-comes-to-shove. When the water runs out, it runs out. Not everyone can buy more.”

Pat and I had noticed the night prior that neither of our toilets would flush. My guess: someone had to flip the switch from the rainwater cistern to the delivered water cistern.

Recycling and reusing have always been part of the mission at Maho Bay Camps. Sustainable living. They don’t like to throw anything away. In fact, visitors can take classes to tie-dye or batik worn linens into sarongs, or create paper with a blend of discarded office paper and dryer lint. They can even blow glass sculptures with recycled glass.

“We see our dump here. Do you know where your trash goes?” Scott asked. “Most people in the U.S. don’t.”

I had to admit I didn’t. But like him, Pat and I take a bit of pride in how little we take to the curb every week. Decent programs in Pittsburgh enable us to recycle more than we trash.

“Really, it’s all about education,” he said. “We can’t fault those who weren’t taught. You have to be given an opportunity to recycle a can.”

Scott seemed to love his job and enjoyed talking with me. He was even gracious about my preferred flag-a-drink-from-my-chair style of vacations, a variation of which is available in St. John: just beyond the $300 per night Westin lies Caneel Bay, a luxury resort that runs $600-$1000 per night. But Scott honored the desire for luxury.

“Wouldn’t that be great?” he beamed. “Everyone works hard and deserves to be pampered. That’s what I’ve been trying to teach my staff: the cost of Caneel Bay or the Westin fits in their budget in the same way our cost [$135/night] fits for our folks. Each one deserves a vacation of a lifetime. I don’t want my staff to treat our guests like they’re saving money by staying here. For our folks, this is their big vacation, usually their only vacation.”

(Page 4 of 7)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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