A team of Virgin Islanders now lead the recently established Salt Island Lands Advisory committee. They are Mr. Wallace Leonard and Mr. Paul Leonard; Ms. Lydia Durante and Mr. Sean Durrant of the Smith Family; Mr. Roosevelt Smith and Mr. Arnold C. Smith from the Abbott family; Dr. Charles Wheatley OBE and Mr. Melvin Stoutt of the Thomas family; Ms. LilyMae Durante and Mrs. Luce Hodge-Smith of the Durante family. The committee is comprised of two (2) representatives from the five (5) descendant families of Salt Island.
The committee’s main function will be to address the applications and oversee the land distribution initiative.
Minister for Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration Honourable Vincent Wheatley has said the newly created Salt Island Lands Advisory Committee (SILAC) will assist his ministry in ensuring the fair distribution of Crown Lands on Salt Island to its descendants.
On May 30th 1990, the Executive Council via Memo No. 131 of 90, advised that Crown Land be given to all persons whose houses are built on Salt Island and that similar provision be made for native descendants of Salt Island to be granted title. The Executive Council further advised at the time of the need to preserve the Salt Pond and the “Rhone” cemetery on the island.
Over the years, there have been applications submitted to the ministry requesting ownership of land on Salt Island.
Honourable Wheatley added, “The role of the committee is to work in collaboration with the ministry and the appropriate experts to develop recommendations for a Land Use and Development Master Plan for the island that takes into account the preservation of salt ponds and other natural resources, ancestral and historic burial grounds, cultural traditions like “Pond Breaking”, historical names, buildings and sites and much more.”
Honourable Wheatley also said that there will also be strict stipulations put in place to ensure that the lands on the island remain within these families for generations to come.