Steve Black offers some very practical, workable and cost effective solutions to ten really annoying St. John problems:
1. THE TRAFFIC FLOW AND PASSENGER TRAFFIC LOOP
THE PROBLEM: Every vehicle to pick up or to drop off a passenger for the ferries presently has to go through the congested ferry area, then past Wharfside to the Catholic Church, make a left, then onto the stop sign at the bank, and then back through town or left up to the “roundabout”. All of this traffic through town only creates greater congestion. The Port Authority plan doesn’t even consider a traffic plan.
THE SOLUTION: This plan helps to eliminate traffic and congestion in our town and around our ferry dock by having vehicles for arriving and departing ferry passengers
enter the Customs parking lot to an area designed to drop off and pickup passengers without having to drive through the congested ferry area and all through the rest of the town. The vehicle simply drops off or picks up passengers and then loops out of the Custom?s lot and the passengers walk the 120 feet to the ferry. This will cut down traffic and congestion almost in half. Also. the Custom’s parking lot should be for short term, one hour parking, not all day parking for St. Thomas commuters.
COST TO DEVELOP: A can of traffic paint and three signs saying, “Ferry Traffic Loop,” “Passenger Pickup and Drop off”, and “One Hour Parking Only.”
2. THE VILLA GREETING AREA
THE PROBLEM: The hub of St. John’s economy is the villa rentals. Of course, there are two major hotels, and cruise ship visitors, but nothing touches our island’s economy like the villa rentals. These visitors rent the homes, the cars, shop in the stores, eat in the restaurants, employ the gardeners, the plumbers, the electricians, and such services, they stimulate our real estate market, they create taxes and makes our community thrive. Yet, how do we greet these special guest? Like “barkers on main
street” they are greeted with chaos and confusion at the ferry dock, they have to fight for their luggage, they have to search for their car agency, and they have to find their
way in this chaos. The Port Authority’s plan doesn’t even mention the Villa Rental market.
THE SOLUTION: This plan proposes that the villa manager greeters meet their guests at a VILLA GREETERS tent in the parking area in front of our public restrooms, free of weather and sun, and chaos. When these guests arrive, they simply walk on the sidewalk from the ferry to the tent. Instead of lugging their luggage through town, they will have tags for their bags which indicates them as villa rentals and our Red Cap Service, using a luggage golf cart, brings the bags to the tent?s baggage claim area. Instead of the villa renters searching for their car rental agency, there will be a “car rental dispatcher” who will call for their car to come to the Villa Greeting Tent. At the tent, the villa managers will have a parking area for their cars instead of all lined up in the streets. Just imagine, on St. John, when you rent a villa, you don’t have to worry
about your luggage, your car, and meeting your villa manager. Instead you will be greeted with hospitality, information, and restrooms.
THE COST: A tent, like the cruise ship people have; a luggage golf cart; and a tent manager.
3. SIDEWALKS AND PARKING FROM POST OFFICE TO MONGOOSE JUNCTION AND SIT-A-SPELL PARK
THE PROBLEM: One of the most dangerous streets in Cruz Bay is the street from the Post Office to Mongoose Junction. People walking in the streets has resulted in injuries to pedestrians. The one sidewalk is narrow and many people ignore using it. The traffic is often too fast and too big for safety. At night, the street is dark and uninviting. There are no benches along the sidewalk for those who might need it. The parking situation on this busy street is chaotic and unsupervised and the Port Authority’s “big black fence” on the sidewalk has stolen the Creek as a “centerpiece” of our town.
THE SOLUTION: Cruz Bay needs a sidewalk on both sides of this street for the safety and access in this area. This is not difficult to achieve. There is room on both sides of
the street to create a sidewalk and to widen the road. On one side we have a park, on the other, we have a setback along the businesses in this area. In the area of the little park, “sit-a-spell” park, we could erect a simple retaining wall along the gut’s runoff swale, level the area, and landscape the palm trees with lights for nighttime walkers. Also, in this little park area, we could erect benches for the convenience, hospitality, and comfort of our visitors and residents. The parking lot at Nature’s needs to be redesigned. By cutting back into the hillside below the Lumberyard we can greatly increase the size of the parking lot and will allow a better configuration of the parking scheme. On this back hill a small wall could be erected with webbing up the hillside for plants and vines to beautify the area. This area should be used for four hour parking, not commuter parking. Across the street, at the Creek landing, we need to remove the “big black fence,” improve the sidewalk, and place movable planter boxes, and then have one hour parking on the Creek bulkhead. Right now, there is no use of this area except for an occasional “Island Girl” visit. The sidewalk, the planters, and the parking will greatly improve the centerpiece our of town. There is a Vitelco and Innovative trailer sitting on our waterfront which needs to be removed. Innovative used this as a Business Office which moved many years ago to the Marketplace. It is time we take back our town from such foolish uses.
THE COST TO DEVELOP: Cruz Bay is so fortunate in that these improvements are very inexpensive. There are no buildings in the way, the sidewalks are very inexpensive and the parking arrangements are easy. The retaining wall for the park is a simple project, as is the parking lot’s hillside. Again, these improvements will bring safety, usefulness, and beauty to this area of town. The lights in the trees will make the area to the Mongoose Junction a much friendlier experience at night.
4. THE SIDEWALK TO THE FERRY DOCK AND TAXI PARKING
THE PROBLEM: The most dangerous street in the Virgin Islands has to be the street from the bank to the ferry dock. On this narrow, greatly used street, pedestrians and
vehicles of all sizes use this street. There have been injuries to pedestrians and there is no visible alternative for pedestrians in this area. Our students coming and going from their ferry ride to St. Thomas schools walk this dangerous street. Public safety is being ignored and probably will be until someone is killed or seriously injured. This is
one of our most busy streets in all of Cruz Bay. The traffic flow is from the bank towards the ferry dock, which does nothing to improve our congestion. Even the bus must drive all through town. As for the taxis operating on the waterfront, which are parked all lined along the beach, the taxis all drive up on the sidewalk adding to the chaos and confusion at the ferry dock, especially when visitors are arriving.
THE SOLUTION: There is a very simple solution for our “most dangerous street,” a solution which could be accomplished immediately. As you will see by the following
poster, a sidewalk could be created along the trees in front of Connections. There are no obstacles from Connections to the ferry dock other than a chain link fence. There is plenty of room for a sidewalk without disturbing the businesses in this area. Access will still be available for those businesses which need deliveries or need to park at their
store. This route, along the trees in front of Connections, past the little parking area, to the park’s big walkways, only a chain link fence and a JJ’s sign need to be moved. A very simple fix for such an important need. If the traffic is reversed, going from the ferry dock towards the bank, this again will get traffic out of town quicker and decrease congestion. Also, reversing the traffic on this street will make the bus route better and more efficient. As for the taxis, if they backed in to park their taxi at a 60% angle, they wouldn’t have to drive up on the sidewalk. This will require repainting the parking lanes.
THE COSTS: In one day of effort, we could remove a piece of fence and create a safe sidewalk to the ferry dock. There would be a need for a sign at both ends of the street to show the sidewalk and to stop walking in the street. This is a very inexpensive fix.
5. ST. JOHN CREEK MARINA
THE PROBLEM: There is no place on St. John where a boat can come in, tie up, and spend money. Without access, we alienate the boating industry and lose the economic
opportunities which our local people can earn from servicing boaters. Even dinghies have almost no access to our shores. We all have seen the popular shores of the British Virgin Islands and how they provide access to boaters and the economic boom that came to their local businesses. In all of the Port Authority’s plans, there is not a single place to be created for a boat to tie up, there isn’t even a spot for dinghies in their plan. The Port Authority’s plan is aimed at cruise ships and shops on our Creek bulkhead which creates a “separate economy” from the local businesses and shops which presently exists. By completely ignoring our local economy, prohibiting access for boaters, and ignoring economic potential of boater access, the Port Authority?s plan not only harms our local business community, but harms the Port Authority’s economic potential as well.
THE SOLUTION: We should build a St. John Creek Marina at the bulkhead in front of Customs. By building slips for short term visits to our island, we provide access for boaters to come and visit our island, shop in our stores, eat at our restaurants, provision their boats, and tour our island. In the area of our present boat ramp, across from the Post Office, there could be a “T” shaped dinghy dock created.
THE COST OF DEVELOPMENT: Although, it is impossible to give an actual figure, one thing is for sure, this St. John Creek Marina will pay for itself with the collection of fees from the boaters for rental of slips. The Port Authority could collect far more in revenues than they will ever get from an occasional “Island Girl” cruise ship tender. In
the plan below, I have left the other bulkhead open for the bigger vessels like the Nantucket Clipper which used to visit here for three days at a time and filled our shops and restaurants and toured our beautiful island.
6. A NATIONAL PARK MARINA
THE PROBLEM: Approximately 60% of our island of St. John, and most of the surrounding waters, is part of the Virgin Islands National Park, and yet, the National Park offers the boating world only a small 15 minute finger pier and a few scattered moorings. There is no place on St. John where a boater could tie up and visit the park. There isn’t even an adequate dinghy dock for our visiting boaters. Instead of offering access, boaters are greeted with obstacles to enjoying the park. Even the park’s fleet of boats need better facilities. Every National Park in the United States offers access and facilities for their visitors, yet our Virgin Islands National park provides no such access from the sea.
THE SOLUTION: To provide better access for boaters who wish to visit the National Park, and to provide better facilities, it is suggested that the park create a National Park Marina and Boardwalk along the shoreline from the Caneel Bay Shipyard and fuel dock, extending northwest to the boat ramp (the old “seaplane ramp”). This marina will provide access for boaters, dinghies, and the NPS fleet of boats. There could be a small building on the boardwalk which could serve for an attendant and for park boat supplies.
COST OF DEVELOPMENT: No cost projection has been done as yet, however, the National Park Marina and Boardwalk will be supported by a system of fees charged visiting boaters.
7. BATTERY PARK –VISITOR CENTER & HISTORICAL MUSEUM
THE PROBLEM: At a time when visitors are looking for attractions, particularly historical, we hide one of our most beautiful assets. The Battery is basically closed!
Sitting on a point in the heart of Cruz Bay, with gorgeous views surrounding this spot, this Battery Point could be so much more, but we keep it virtually “off limits!” What could be a scenic lookout, a historical museum, and a visitor information center, instead we have a few government offices. Our Tourist Information Center in Cruz Bay is
obscurely hidden, difficult to find, yet at the Battery the gates could be open to such terrific uses. The Port Authority has considered building a boardwalk on the water around the point, however, as good as that could be, the power of Hurricane Earl showed that a boardwalk may not have survived.
THE SOLUTION: Open up the Battery for all to enjoy. Let’s make it a Historical Museum, and Information Center, and a Scenic Park with a handicap trail around the
point with benches. Visitors and locals alike will love sitting and watching the boats and ferries and catching our beautiful sunsets. The entrance gate to the Battery could be redesign for greater visibility and appeal. St. John needs an Historical Museum and our historic buildings at the Battery is the perfect place.
COST OF DEVELOPMENT: The cost of developing this area is minor. There is already a foot path around the property, the Battery buildings are unique and could be enhanced with historic displays and a visitor information center could be set up in one of the rooms. This is a simple development and the rewards for our St. John’s image is substantial.
8. GRANDE BAY SIDEWALK AND SCENIC WATERFRONT
THE PROBLEM: It is so interesting that after years of permitting and debating the Grande Bay project, that never once was there a requirement that a sidewalk would need to be built. So, now, we have visitors and residents walking in the street with traffic. Also, this street is along a beautiful beach with fabulous views of the Cruz Bay, yet there are no benches to sit on to watch a sunset. It is understood that Grande Bay has property rights to the water, yet there was no sidewalk requirement. How could that have happened? Along the Cruz Bay Graveyard there is a fence which has been broken and mangled, unappealing to visitors, residents, and an offense to those who have gone before us.
THE SOLUTION: We need to create a sidewalk/boardwalk with scenic benches through this area. We need to enhance the beauty of this area, while providing safety for pedestrians. So often, in speaking with seniors, they often cite that there are too few scenic benches in Cruz Bay. By designing a sidewalk with a boardwalk atmosphere along the beach, we could have series of scenic turrets with benches for the joy of sitting and gazing on our beautiful bay.
COST OF DEVELOPMENT: This is another minor development. Sidewalks and scenic attractions are essential. In St. Croix, they have many scenic boardwalks in place. St. John needs our enhancements. As for who should cover the costs, it could be considered as a public/private partnership with Grande Bay and the other property owners in this area. Whatever it takes, this project is too important to ignore.
9. THE ENIGHED POND COMMUNITY CENTER
THE PROBLEM: Cruz Bay is over-impacted and congested. Parking is a nightmare. There is no design, management, or enforcement of the conditions of Cruz Bay. Some businesses are overtaking whatever they can get regardless of the impacts on others. Vendors pop up wherever they can seize a space. We give up our downtown for six weeks every year for Carnival with building & dismantling booths and the stage. Unlike other places around the world which create a “village” for vendors and farmers markets, our vendors cram into our little Powell Park with blue tents congesting our ferry dock even further. The vendors are selected because of limited space. In little Cruz Bay, we have two ball fields, but little parking. We use the Creek area as a depot for Customs, the cruise arrivals and BVI ferries, and we have a “big black fence” for security as a centerpiece. Twenty four car rental agencies and their many cars choke every spot in town. Trucking interests and deliveries give our town an industrial feeling. What is happening to Love City?
THE SOLUTION: Cruz Bay has an opportunity that other town’s rarely have, we have 4 to 5 acres of undeveloped land in our town. Where other towns must knock down buildings to improve their town, we have space to make our town better. Hopefully, soon we should have parking for 150 vehicles surrounding this vacant land. This could open Cruz Bay to many improvements and removal of the “pressure cooker” atmosphere. The Port Authority says this land is unstable for the weight of buildings, however, this plan has no heavy construction and is mostly fields and landscaping. As you see in the poster below, it is suggested that this vacant land could become a terrific “community center” for a “vendors village”, Carnival, Events, and Amphitheater, a Sports Field, Customs and security enhanced area, a car rental lot, and restrooms; and all surrounded by 150 parking places. Briefly, here are some of the benefits:
A VENDORS VILLAGE–Vendors are an important part of St. John’s economy. They need their own “village”, with parking, to become an attraction. This area, due to its size, will provide ample space for permanent vendors, and “holiday vendors” as well. A “village” which should be promoted as an attraction for visitors and cruise people, but also a “farmers and fish market”, and “food court” for residents too.
CARNIVAL & EVENTS VILLAGE--An “amphitheater” could be erected for Carnival and events. There is plenty of space so events could be more pleasant. A lawn and landscaping could grace this area, with a gray water system from the treatment plant. This area would be permanent, unlike having Carnival at the Customs lot in town.
THE SPORTS FIELD--This field would be bigger and better, with better lawns, than the two fields in town. Spectator stands could be built benefiting both games and carnival events.
CUSTOMS, BVI FERRIES, CRUISE SHIPS AND SECURITY–Over half of the Enighed Pond Port is little used. This could be the secure area for these activities, thus freeing the Creek area from needing a “big black fence.”
CAR RENTAL LOT–Just like at an airport, there is a need to stage rental cars away from town.
SEAPLANE SERVICE–This area could also accommodate the return of seaplane service to St. John.
10. LOVE CITY MARINA AT ENIGHED POND
THE PROBLEM: The island of St. John is the only island in the Caribbean without a marina, and the little access for dinghies is appalling. In the original plan for the Enighed Pond, there was an 83 slip marina planned, but the Port Authority stripped it out of the project. At present, there is not a single place on all of St. John where a boat can tie up to spend money, and boaters like to spend money if you let them. The Port Authority presently has no plans to construct a single slip on St. John; not even for a dinghy. This holds back the St. John community and our economic future. Even though the Port Authority’s Mission Statement and mandate stresses to aid in economic opportunities for the island, there are no plans for St. John.
THE SOLUTION: A group of local St. John residents are exploring the possibility of creating a LOVE CITY MARINA at the Enighed Pond. By capping the metal seawall, which runs from the barge ramp south to the shore of Contant Hill, with a boardwalk and slips, a marina could be created. Such an marina will provide economic opportunities, and also will give boat owners a safe port for their vessels.
Steve Black has been living on St. John for 25 years. For more information or to see his entire plan with illustrations contact Steve at email@example.com