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My family’s St. Thomas hotel property, Bolongo Bay Beach Resort, was devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. Some of the damaging effects from two Category 5 hurricanes in a two-week period were unlike any we’d faced before, even though this wasn’t our first “100-year storm”. The Bolongo Bay family was determined to reclaim our property and to make it even better.

However, as the aftermath began and upon further inspection, we realized that the storms caused more flooding and erosion damage to our beach and landscaping than we’d ever experienced before. Our famous “Iggies Beach Bar & Grill” was severely damaged structurally, and the surrounding environmental damage was astonishing. The storms’ run-off and tidal surges eroded the beach, and the surrounding land endured 150 continuous days of fresh water run-off flooding. We had a river running through our property without any means to stop it from eroding it even more. Buildings and pools can be repaired, but the hurricanes took the foundation of the island itself out to sea. The redesign and rebuild was going to need more support and resources than my Bolongo Bay family and staff could provide. 

After 40-plus years in business here, I find that the skill set of Island Designs, LLC is unique. It’s the only landscape design and storm water solutions firm equipped with both the knowledge and the personnel to be able to address this level of property damage. We sent many photos and videos of the damage and this team still flew in from the Northeast to meet with us and learn about our vision and their plan of action for Bolongo Bay. First, they assessed the property damage and took measurements of the areas most in need of drainage remediation and enhancements. After they went back to the states, thousands of miles between customer and designer, they understood our vision and immediately impressed us with their personalized service. With their 3D designs, and a very accurately detailed PowerPoint presentation, they presented their solutions. They utilized the latest technology and provided detailed computer graphic versions of our buildings, patios, walkways, palm trees, flowers, and even showing our Bolongo Bay logo on the floor of our pool! 

Beyond the simple beauty of the designs, there was the vital and impressive engineering expertise of Duane Ferguson and Island Designs. They presented to us a way of rerouting and naturally filtering the freshwater runoff from the property and providing drainage solutions we should have. An integrated system of permeable pavements, bioretention water quality facilities, and bioswales were created and suggested to bring the water away from the eroding property and out to sea while removing pollutants. They will use permeable pavers to create new common areas for events while providing drainage through to the sand base and a durable sustainable surface. In addition, ideas for sargassum control and beach reclamation are also high priorities in order to sustain a clear Bolongo Bay. 

We’re moving forward to make these plans a reality as construction starts this year. Dave, Duane, and their team have made us believe that the Bolongo Bay Project is in excellent hands. Their unique skill set and expertise, along with their commitment to the region, makes them a one of a kind company in this industry in the Caribbean.

Richard Doumeng

Bolongo Bay Beach Resort, St. Thomas

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