A four-acre parcel filled with material dredged from Enighed Pond when the port was created is still drying and settling and is intended someday to become a container storage area. Community activists are promoting the site as a grass-covered public gathering place for musical entertainment and a marketplace for St. John crafts and produce.
St. Johnian reggae music legend Phillip “Grasshopper” Pickering; cultural activist, artist and musician Delroy “Ital” Anthony, and St. John political activist Steve “Gadfly” Black have a common goal.
They just haven’t agreed on what it is — yet.
But, if they don’t hurry up and unite their efforts, the V.I government, in the form of the V.I. Port Authority (VIPA), may continue to pave paradise and put up parking lots in Cruz Bay.
Pickering, a native St. Johnian and an internationally-renowned musician, has been fighting for donkey years for a public venue on the island for music and cultural events to replace the island’s historic community gathering spots which have been lost as the island population has grown.
Anthony, one of a handful of licensed “professional” craftspeople on the island, has been fighting for the long-promised St. John vendors market to showcase the work of the island’s dwindling artisanship in the face of government bureaucracy which has erased public funds earmarked for the 30-year-old project.
Black, a community activist, has reinvigorated his years-old plan for a permanent, “green” combined festival village and vendors market between the Enighed Port and the gravel parking lot across from the tennis court.
“I imagine a Carnival Park and Vendors Village with grassy fields, palm trees, an Amphitheater,” Black writes. “What we could have is a big, beautiful usable field for events.”
Grasshopper, Ital and Gadfly Agree, Almost
The three almost agree that their interests could coalesce into a united front to convince the V.I. Port Authority to accede to the needs and wishes of the littlest Virgin Island, as the three St. John community activists themselves dance to different drummers.
The V.I. Port Authority, meanwhile, is moving with all due bureaucratic haste to a different tempo. VIPA officials are preparing to unveil a plan for completion of the St. John port project with the creation of a cargo area on the four acres of filled land between the port’s paved waterfront and the gravel public parking area across from the tennis courts — after the site is stabilized.
VIPA is planning to spend more than $10 million on the undeveloped area in the center of the port property which was filled with material dredged from Enighed Pond when the port was created.
“It’s going to be years and years,” VIPA Chairman St. Johnian Robert O’Connor Jr. said of the timetable for the cargo parking project in an impromptu interview with St. John Tradewinds on Saturday, June 14. “It’s too unstable.”
The gravel lot across from The Marketplace on South Shore Road adjacent the wastewater treatment plant at the entrance to the barge ramp currently is used for containers in transit.
Grassy Concert Venue Short-term Option?
Could the roughly four-acre area between the Enighed Pond paved bulkhead and the temporary medium-term parking lot across from the tennis courts be used as a public venue in the interim?
Pickering actually thinks Black’s idea has some merit. Grasshopper can see a grass-covered St. John public venue dedicated to musical performances and gatherings to replace the public performance areas lost in recent years such as Enighed’s Pond Mouth and the enhanced Frank Powell Park in Cruz Bay.
“It could work,” Grasshopper said.
Anthony, who has been preserving island crafts with limited marketing assistance from the V.I. government or the Department of Tourism, is looking for any support for native artisans. Ital also is looking for the St. John Capital Improvement funds earmarked for an island crafts marketplace or vendors plaza which appear to have been re-appropriated for other government expenditures.
Questions recently have been raised as to the whereabouts of more than $5 million in St. John Capital Improvement funds — $3 million of which was earmarked by V.I. Senate legislation for a St. John vendors project opposite Cruz Bay Creek.
Black, a persistent government critic, has been bringing his plan for a grassy public gathering place on the interior portion of the Enighed Pond port to the attention of anyone who will listen for more than four years. Black also sees the Enighed Pond site as a permanent venue for the St. John Festival, moving it from its current sewage-leak-prone home on the cramped Cruz Bay Creek waterfront parking lot.
Since VIPA announced the transfer of the government-owned Enighed Pond Mouth property to the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources for the creation of a new St. John Fish Market with docking for fishermen, hopes for the reopening of that former public gathering spot have gone out with the tide
VIPA’s community-minded effort in identifying a site for a new island fish market has raised hopes that the agency could cooperate on a community effort for a concert venue.
There is no question St. John needs to create a public gathering place and a better carnival event venue than circling the Crowley wagons on the arid playing field of the Julius E. Sprauve School — taking over Cruz Bay’s only sports field for more than a month each summer and doing annual damage in defiance of community efforts to improve the beleaguered playing surface.
The only question should be which way to face the loud speakers.
Steve Black is even willing to aim the music from the proposed concert venue and new home for the St. John Festival away from the Enighed Pond waterfront and back at his home on Margaret Hill overlooking Cruz Bay.
Editor’s Note: definition of gadfly providedbelow:
noun ( pl. gadflies )
a fly that bites livestock, esp. a horsefly, warble fly, or botfly.
• an annoying person, esp. one who provokes others into action by criticism.
ORIGIN late 16th cent.: from gad, or obsolete gad ‘goad, spike,’ from Old Norse gaddr, of Germanic origin.