Renovations to the Maho pavilion, above, include renovating and expanding the deteriorating building and construction of a separate structure to house bathrooms.
After being moved to the back burner for the majority of 2010, the V.I. National Park is looking once again to garner interest from local taxi drivers for its planned North Shore shuttle project.
The shuttle service, which was announced by VINP Superintendent Mark Hardgrove at the February Friends of the VINP annual meeting, would reduce transportation impacts on the approximately eight mile-long North Shore Road. Hardgrove said he hoped the hourly shuttle service would be provided by local taxi drivers.
A month after Hardgrove’s announcement, however, the VINP and the V.I. Taxicab Commission were still waiting for St. John taxi drivers to develop and present a plan for the shuttle service.
Most recently, the VINP is waiting on the taxi drivers to regroup after a change in leadership, explained Hardgrove.
“We’re not sure what the interest is of the new leadership at this point,” he said. “It’s probably time for us to set up a meeting again with the taxi organization and see how we can work together this year to provide the best service possible.”
Despite Hardgrove’s previous assertion that the shuttle service would move forward with or without the cooperation of local taxi drivers, it’s since become evident that a shuttle would in fact need to be run by a sector of the local government.
“The park really can’t run a shuttle,” said Hardgrove. “It’s a territorial public service that has to be provided through the government.”
Hardgrove is not giving up hope on the North Shore shuttle; however, he admits it may not be implemented in as timely a manner as he’d anticipated.
“I think we owe ourselves a couple more years of trying to develop a relationship and trust with the taxi drivers,” he said.
Park officials also hope to soon move forward with the construction of a parking area, picnic tables and restrooms at Maho Beach, a project that’s been in the works for years.
The existing pavilion will be restored and added to, and an independent structure will be built to house restrooms. Satellite parking for approximately 25 cars is already in the works at the beach’s east end, and there will be parking for an additional 25 cars at Maho’s west end.
Picnic tables and grills will be installed, and the finished product will be similar to facilities found at Hawksnest, according to Hardgrove. The project is expected to cost under $500,000. More than half of the money needed for the project — $285,000 — is ready and waiting in the VINP’s fee program account.
Final plans for the site should be completed within the next two months, and a contractor will be sought out via a design build process. Hardgrove hopes the contract will be awarded in early 2011, and once work begins, the entire renovation process should take seven to eight months to complete.
Additional work will now need to be done at Maho thanks to the rains brought by Tropical Storm Otto, which undercut the North Shore Road at Maho Beach, causing the road to cave in.
“We need to build a retaining wall and curb through the entire seawall side of that road so the gut spills over the road and doesn’t undercut it again,” said Hardgrove.
Once the renovations are complete, the VINP superintendent anticipates that parking on the seaward side of the road will be closed off.