FEMA OKs Funding for New Magens Bay Bathhouse 5 Years After Irma

Magens Bay beach on St. Thomas. (Source photo by Sian Cobb)

Almost five years after hurricanes Irma and Maria destroyed a bathhouse at Magens Bay Park on St. Thomas, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved $3.4 million to replace the structure.

Only three walls of the bathhouse survived the two Category 5 hurricanes in September 2017, according to a press release from FEMA announcing the funding. Only the facility’s cistern remains today after the building was demolished, it said.

FEMA’s Public Assistance and Environmental and Historic Preservation teams collaborated with the territory and the Magens Bay Authority on a scope of work agreement to replace Bathhouse No. 1. A final site inspection revealed a septic system and a large concrete slab, necessitating revisions of the original detailed drawings and dimensions to the scope of work, the release stated.

The new design required an enlarged footprint in order to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards and current building codes, Magens Bay Authority board member Robert Moron told his fellow board members in April 2021 as he sought approval for the plan.

FEMA also cited federal shoreline protection provisions in requesting the footprint be reduced by about 800 feet, to fall into line with its original size and existing Bathhouse No. 2, Moron said at the time.

“The collaborative effort of the Magens Bay Authority, the territory, FEMA, and its federal partners to approve the bathhouse replacement project exemplifies the ongoing work to recover from the 2017 hurricanes. We are honored to be a part of this project and eagerly await the opening of the new bathhouse,” said U.S. Virgin Islands Recovery Director Kristen Hodge in Tuesday’s press release.

“The Board of Directors and management of the Magens Bay Authority thanks all the participants for their technical assistance on this project. It remains the Authority’s intent to remove what is remaining of Bathhouse Building No. 1 and rebuild a facility that more closely resembles the Authority’s other bathhouse facility at Smith Bay Park on St. Thomas,” the release adds.

The new facility will meet the Americans with Disabilities Act, International Building and territorial codes, the release stated. The new elevated structure, with a ramp and sidewalk, will also meet flood-plain requirements, it said.

The federal share for the bathhouse project is $3 million and the non-federal share is $342,690, according to the release.

Magens Bay Park attracts 300,000 visitors each year, according to the authority that manages the 56-acre property that was donated to the municipalities of St. Thomas and St. John in 1946 by Wall Street financier Arthur S. Fairchild. The park also includes the 319-acre Magens Bay Watershed, a protected wildlife space, after additional private land was acquired in 2002 through a partnership with the Nature Conservancy and the Virgin Islands government, according to the authority’s website.

As of May 23, FEMA has obligated $4.1 billion toward infrastructure repairs in the U.S. Virgin Islands since the September 2017 hurricanes, the release stated. This includes $1.8 billion for emergency projects and $1.75 billion toward permanent work through the Public Assistance Program, it said.