St. John residents can expect some relief from the struggle to find a parking place in Cruz Bay in just three months, when the V.I. Port Authority will open its Enighed Pond property to 150 parking spots, VIPA Executive Director Ken Hobson announced at the Thursday evening, January 14, St. John Chamber of Commerce meeting.
The deJongh Group has long been working on plans for VIPA’s St. John properties, including Enighed Pond and the Cruz Bay Creek, and the group’s proposal was recently accepted by the VIPA board.
The new parking spaces will line the perimeter of the Enighed Pond in a gravel parking lot with four access points from the road. The lot will be open at all times, and Robert deJongh of the deJongh Group is urging the St. John community to come together to organize a shuttle service from the lot into Cruz Bay.
The material which was dredged from the pond to open it to the ocean during the construction of the barge port has since been drying out at Enighed Pond, and has long been considered an obstacle to any type of development at the property.
The deJongh Group’s proposal calls for pushing some of the fill toward the center of the property, approximately 70 to 75 feet from the perimeter, and stabilizing the parking area with three layers of a permeable geo-textile fabric and crushed stone.
“This will form a structural crust which we believe is significant to support light vehicle loads,” said deJongh. “The placement of the additional fill in the center adds more weight and further represses it. This will allow it to compress more, and hopefully when it is eventually removed, the material will have been enhanced structurally.”
VIPA was initially reluctant to open its property to free public parking, which it only agreed to after intervention by Governor John deJongh.
The Port Authority, whose responsibilities are aviation and marine facilities, “is not in the business of providing free public parking,” said local architect deJongh.
The parking lot was funded by a recent bond issue, and design documents are complete and ready to go out to bid.
Parking at Enighed Pond will be free for the time being, according to Hobson; however, VIPA does have plans to develop a commercial center on the property once the dredged material can be removed.
While deJongh’s explanation of the parking plan at Enighed was repeatedly met with applause by St. John Chamber members, the group was not so receptive to the deJongh Group’s suggestions for the use of the Cruz Bay Creek.
The current plan calls for relocating the Customs and Border Patrol facility to the far eastern side of the property, closest to the V.I. National Park ball field. Several chamber members expressed concern at the amount of boat traffic which would the have to travel deep into the Creek to clear customs upon returning from the British Virgin Islands.
The deJongh Group also suggested an amphitheater be built in the foothills of the Battery, and that numerous commercial buildings be constructed among parking lots and green spaces — the part of the plan which drew the most opposition from chamber members.
“You would have to create a market for all that commercial space,” said local architect and Mongoose Junction builder/owner Glen Speer. “What is the real long term plan, cruise ships? That changes who we are as an island.”
Several chamber members likened the proposal for the Creek to Havensight on St. Thomas.
“If I have to give up my waterfront so cruise ship people can come here, then let them stay,” said local architect Michael Milne.
DeJongh assured the chamber that its plan for the Creek is nowhere near final.
“These features are for stimulating ideas,” he said. “They are not set in stone.”
The architect urged the group to map out where it wants the island to go in five, 10 and 15 years, and to submit its plan to VIPA. The Port Authority would welcome the input, according to Hobson.