While the Enighed Pond Marine Facility parking lot looks almost ready to welcome 151 cars, several major issues must be fixed before VIPA opens the much-anticipated lot.
Although the parking lot at Enighed Pond Marine Facility looks just about complete, don’t expect to use the area any time soon.
The planned 151-space parking lot on V.I. Port Authority land was expected to open in the next few weeks and relieve some of the congestion in overly-clogged Cruz Bay. The lot was designed by St. Thomas-based architecture firm deJongh and Associates and the $998,450 contract was awarded to Wharton Smith, which was expected to work just two months on the project before the lot would open.
Issues with handicapped parking, fencing, drainage and lighting, however, combined with a lack of additional funding to fix the problems, have indefinitely delayed the opening of the lot.
“The reason the parking lot is not open is because they have to address the drainage situation, the Americans with Disabilities Act parking area, fencing and lighting,” said St. John Administrator Leona Smith.
Fencing in the area must comply with U.S. Coast Guard Homeland Security requirements, explained Smith.
“Fencing is a situation with the Coast Guard in regards to Homeland Security,” Smith said. “The entire Enighed Pond area needs to have eight-foot fencing. The six-foot fence they put around the parking area has to come down.”
While removing the fencing does not seem like a difficult endeavor, there is a lack of funds to complete the work, according to Kate Norfleet, St. John board member of the St. Thomas/St. John Chamber of Commerce.
Norfleet discussed the parking lot situation last week with Robert deJongh, managing partner of deJongh and Associates, who drew the plans and is overseeing the project.
“The six-foot fencing was installed to match what was already in place around the barge dock area,” said Norfleet. “Coast Guard informed VIPA that all of the perimeter fencing, including the barge area and not just the parking lot, had to up upgraded to eight-foot fencing, presumably a TSA requirement.”
“Funding is not established from what I understand,” Norfleet said.
Drainage problems in the area are nothing new, but apparently weren’t dealt with before the lot was laid out and now there is no funding to install new drainage pipes, according to Norfleet.
“The drainage on the street at the corner across from the tennis courts has to be fixed,” she said. “As you all know, the entire intersection floods badly when it rains due to blocked lines which are beyond repair. The line does not have enough pressure to keep it clear of sediment.”
“There is a proposal to install an intake pipe at the flooding point that will feed a vault with pumps to push the water out through new pipes that will discharge into the mangroves,” Norfleet said. “The vault would take up a couple of parking spaces in the new lot and the pipes to the mangroves would be installed in the planting areas that are not yet landscaped. At present funding has not been ascertained and this is just in the proposal stages.”
While about eight handicapped parking spaces are included in the lot, the gravel ground in the area is not allowed under Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, Norfleet explained.
“Gravel is not allowed in ADA handicapped parking spaces and access to the spaces needs to be determined,” she said. “The ADA spaces will be paved but this can’t be done until the sewer and drain lines are installed.”
“Again, no funding is allocated and the option for federal funding would take two years according to deJongh & Associates,” Norfleet said.
Finally, solar lights in the area are not emitting enough light to make the area safe, added Norfleet.
“The solar lights have been installed but don’t seem to be working adequately to safely light the area according to some,” she said.
All of those issues mean there is simply no date for the opening of the lot. In the meantime, residents are hoping to pressure government officials to at least open the lot for day-time use, according to Norfleet.
“There is no telling when the lot will be open,” she said. “I asked deJongh and Associates why the lot can’t be used as it is until such time that the improvements needed are funded and set to begin. The response I got was that they didn’t want to ‘give us something and then take it away.’”
“I am disheartened to a great degree by this and at our last chamber chapter meeting attendants were strongly in favor of demanding at least day time parking and a moratorium on parking fines until the problem is fixed,” said Norfleet.
Many residents believe these issues should have been addressed before work on the lot even began, Norfleet added.
“This community has fought so many wars to get parking on St. John that it is just amazing that we still don’t have any,” she said. “And now we have an empty lot for who knows how long, due to issues that surely should have been addressed when designing the lot. I can understand that each of the above problems needs to be fixed but do think that some allowances must be made to help residents deal with its parking problems.”
Officials are trying to get the work complete as soon as possible, according to Administrator Smith.
“Those issues have to be addressed before we open the lot,” said Smith. “We’re trying to get thing going as soon as possible. We realize that people want to use that soon and the extra 151 parking spaces will alleviate a lot of congestion in the town.”
“Hopefully VIPA will get back to us with a completion date soon,” Smith said.
While the local chamber of commerce chapter understands the rules and regulations for the lot, officials are hoping to be able use some part of the lot instead of just looking at it, Norfleet explained.
“The chapter supports the current rules and regulations, but we do feel that we must do everything we can to keep pressure on the government, VIPA and all of the other parties involved to move quickly to address this,” she said. “To have spent so much time and money on a parking lot we can only stare at is absurd.”