Feb. 8, 2002 — The public will get a chance to weigh in on the Turnbull administration's draft plan for a park at St. Croix's Great Pond Bay later this month, more than two years after a judge blocked Beal Aerospace's purchase of the 14.5-acre site and ordered the V.I. government to develop a recreational facility there instead.
In a press conference Thursday, Department of Housing Parks and Recreation officials discussed progress on the Great Pond Bay Park Master Plan and announced a public hearing on it, to be held Feb. 26 in the Territorial Court jury room at 6 p.m. The plan for the site, commonly called Camp Arawak, calls for the construction of recreational facilities including campgrounds, an amphitheater, and a small pier, as well as the restoration of the greathouse and shoreline erosion control.
According to the DHP&R's Roy Canton Jr.,
the total cost for the proposals to date is $1.3 million. Some $500,000 of that is for the restoration of the late-18th century greathouse, and DHP&R has applied for a Community Development Block Grant to fund that part of the project.
The department is seeking grants from several federal agencies to pay for shoreline erosion control. Controlling runoff is a priority because of the barrier reef system that rings the bay.
"We don't want to get ahead of ourselves. We're still in the planning stage," Canton said. "But immediate funding is needed for erosion control and the restoration of the greathouse."
The park plan came about after Territorial Court Judge Alphonso Andrews blocked the exchange of public property at Camp Arawak between the V.I. government and Beal Aerospace in December 1999. Andrews gave the government 60 days to come up with a "flexible, comprehensive master plan for the use of the property and structures as a park facility."
Turnbull chose the DHP&R to draft the plan. Commissioner Ira Hobson selected, among others, Raymond "Usie" Richards, Olasee Davis and Valmy Thomas to sit on the task force.
The plan was completed in February 2000 and turned over to the administration. But nothing has happened since. When Hobson submitted the plan, he warned that there was no money to implement it.
Hobson called V.I. Delegate to Congress Donna Christian Christensen for help. Christensen aide Elena Shaubah said Thursday that through the delegate's membership on the Congressional Coastal Caucus, she was able to connect with Coastal America, a consortium of 12 federal agencies that work together to help communities preserve and protect coastal areas of environmental, historical and cultural significance.
"Coastal America is ready to step in to assist us with funding," Canton said.
In his 1999 order, Andrews stipulated that the park plan include a means of funding and that the money be deposited in a separate account independent from the V.I. government’s general fund.
The money, Hobson said, will be crucial in the park's upkeep. He envisions the park as working along the same lines as the Magens Bay Authority on St. Thomas.
"We're going to be very conscious to follow up," Hobson said. "Maintenance is number one."
Camp Arawak was donated to the people of the Virgin Islands by the late Frank Wiesner in 1974. The deed stipulated that the property, which contains the Danish colonial-era greathouse and other cultural and archeological artifacts, was to be developed into a park.
Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and a lack of government funding, however, have left the greathouse in disrepair and the property undeveloped.


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