Police on St. John had no further details regarding the vandalism of the island’s only functioning playing field, according to David Cannonier, assistant police chief for St. John.
Members of the Gifft Hill School community arrived at the campus Sunday to find that overnight a vehicle had crashed through the gates surrounding Trayser Field, knocking down the recently replaced soccer nets and seriously damaging the field’s surface by driving around in circles.
The field is still usable, according to Paula Smail, director of communications for Gifft Hill School, but repairs are expected to amount to tens of thousands of dollars.
“We have to have a conversation with someone who knows about artificial turf. The fake grass is crushed and the layers underneath are full of ridges and dinks,” Smail said.
Smail said the school decided to install artificial turf when they built Trayser Field in 2010 because of its durability. “It would have been the less expensive option over many years,” she said.
Despite the destruction, students who have continued to use the field have not been endangered, Smail said, and community members have been out in the evenings playing ultimate frisbee and soccer.
The other three fields on the island have all been rendered unusable since the hurricanes in 2017. Winston Wells Ball Park, which hosted queen shows, baseball tournaments, community events and religious gatherings, now serves as the home for the modular units that make up the Julius E. Sprauve School.
The other field in Cruz Bay, adjacent to the Virgin Islands National Park Visitor Center, is still being restored after being used as a depot for equipment to repair the island’s power grid.
The field in Coral Bay, which served as a site to store debris from Hurricane Irma, is still covered by wood chips.
Smail said the Gifft Hill School’s security cameras recorded the presence of a cart—similar to a golf cart–“making donuts” on the field late Saturday night, only hours after the school held its annual fundraising auction.
Residents of the nearby Bellevue Village housing community said construction crews making repairs on site have a vehicle matching that description. One resident said she heard loud noises that sounded like that vehicle in operation joined by several mopeds between 1 and 2 a.m.
By Sunday night, a Go Fund Me account had been established with the goal of raising $10,000 to repair the field. “The upswell of support from businesses and individuals has been impressive,” said Smail.