Decision on Customs Lot Coming in “Short Order,” says Dowe


VIPA Director Carlton Dowe, above, met with St. John Chamber of Commerce chapter members last week.

Residents can expect to hear V.I. Port Authority’s plans for the future of the U.S. Customs parking lot in Cruz Bay in “short order,” the agency’s new director told about 15 people at a Chamber of Commerce meeting last week.

VIPA’s recently appointed director, former senator, Carlton Dowe met with members of the St. John Chapter of the St. Thomas/St. John Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday afternoon, February 26, at the Cruz Bay Battery.

Along with VIPA Marine Manager Kelvin Industrious, Dowe listened to members’ questions and concerns while laying out VIPA’s upcoming goals. VIPA officials previously looked into converting the current unregulated U.S. Customs parking lot in Cruz Bay into short-term parking, explained St. John Chamber representative Don Porter, who questioned VIPA’s current plans for the area.

“One thing that was put in my face was this issue of parking,” said Dowe. “In short time we’ll make an announcement. We’re looking at different scenarios and these are decisions we are going to have to come to terms with.”

“There will be a decision made in short order,” Dowe said. “There will be a definitive answer in a couple of weeks. We will make a decision that we think will benefit the community at large.”

Officials will also look into testing the dredged materials from Enighed Pond to see if the area can accommodate expanded parking, Dowe explained.

“How can we maximize the use of the Enighed Pond gravel lot,” he said. “We must look at the stability of the dredged material, where there are just weeds growing up now.”

While VIPA officials have made no decisions regarding possibly installing turnstiles in the Red Hook Marine Facility, the agency is exploring the possibility of adding a U.S. Customs office in the area, according to Dowe.

“Part of our plans moving forward is to look at $680,000 that was set aside to proceed to get designs for a customs office at Red Hook,” he said. “We will not eliminate customs on St. John, but if you can fly from St. Thomas to Miami in less time than it takes to leave Tortola and get to St. Thomas, that’s wrong.”

VIPA will discuss a design with engineers to possibly add a second floor to the Red Hook Marine Facility which would house a future U.S. Customs office, Dowe added.

Fielding concerns about congestion at the Cruz Bay Loredon Boynes Sr. Ferry Dock, Dowe suggested that chamber members meet with V.I. Police Department officials.

VIPA cannot do anything about the unpopular black fence surrounding the Cruz Bay bulkhead area, Dowe explained.

“Since 9/11 all of our lives have changed,” he said. “Homeland Security has regulations that we must abide by and the U.S. Coast Guard had mandated that we do that. That is not VIPA, that mandate came from the federal government.”

The new Dock Master’s Building at Enighed Pond is expected to be completed in the next few weeks, Dowe added.

“It will open in a month or so,” he said. “We’re just finishing up odds and ends but everything is pretty alright.”