The Pine Peace basketball court, above, will soon have brand new nets, thanks to a visiting couple who were moved by the court’s poor condition.
With first hand knowledge of how local youth spend their time, Mariano Amaro is armed to make a difference.
As a security guard at Cruz Bay’s ferry dock, Amaro sees students return from school in St. Thomas and knows there aren’t many activities to keep them busy.
“We need things for these kids to do,” said Amaro. “If these kids are busy playing basketball or football, then they will have less time to do stupid things and they’ll stay out of trouble. The way I see it, if you have something positive to do, then you won’t do something damaging or negative.”
Fixing the woeful state of the Pine Peace basketball court — the sole full basketball court on island — has been a rallying cry for Amaro for years, he explained.
“I’m always on the senators’ and everyone’s cases about fixing that basketball court,” said Amaro. “If the kids could play basketball there, it could keep them out of trouble. We need to keep these kids on the right track and here is one simple thing we could do.”
Amaro isn’t shy about his desire to fix the often flooded and usually moldy basketball court in Cruz Bay and recently he was surprised by the generosity of visitors who shared his feelings.
“I work on the ferry dock and I always talk to the tourists,” said Amaro. “I was talking to a couple last month who were on vacation and were heading home. I was telling them about the basketball court.”
“They said they had been to the court hoping to watch some kids playing basketball, but they saw there were no nets,” he said.
The couple took Amaro’s address and promised to send some equipment his way for the court.
“They asked me if I would put the nets up for them and they sent me to two nets in the mail,” Amaro said.
The Cruz Bay ferry dock security guard plans to recruit a few basketball players to help him install the new nets this week.
“I want to get some kids to help me put them up and I’ll take some pictures,” Amaro said. “We’ll send some thank you notes to the couple to make sure they know that the kids appreciate this.”
While the gift is a welcome upgrade to the facility, much more needs to be done to ensure that local youth have a usable court, Amaro explained.
“The court needs to be painted and there is a flooding problem there,” he said. “They could bring the level of the court up higher or they could build a drainage system. All they would have to do is get a big pipe and pour concrete around the perimeter so water doesn’t settle on the court.”
St. John youth deserve to know that the government and citizens care about their sports facilities, Amaro added.
“This is the only full basketball court on the island and the kids can’t even use it,” he said. “Tim Duncan is from the Virgin Islands; we have talent here. We need to have the activities for these kids to get the chance to shine.”