March 18, 2002 – The crumbling condition of the east wall of Fort Christian is raising concerns about safety for motorists and their vehicles in the adjacent parking lot and about utilizing the area in a few weeks for the traditional V.I. Carnival Children's Village.
The wall has been deteriorating for at least eight years. Where wooden braces were put up long ago to support one section, people familiar with the historic landmark say gaping cracks are evident. Recently, a piece of galvanized roofing was set into another section, and observers say homeless people now climb up there to bed down for the night.
One knowledgeable observer who asked not to be named said the latest damage occurred at a spot where workers had planted banana shoots in an attempt to spruce up the grounds. A neglected pile of red bricks and discarded banana leaves lie on the ground near the spot. Loosened bricks sit atop the wall on either side of a gash about four feet wide.
When the protective barricades were first set up, oversight for Fort Christian, a National Historic Landmark dating from 1666, was under the Planning and Natural Resources Department's Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums. Since then it has been redirected to the Office of Historic Preservation. Myron Jackson, director of the office, said he would ask the Public Works Department to put up wooden braces near the new hole in the wall. "The corrugated area we have to secure, that area there could use some work," he said.
Jackson said the eastern wall has been "unsound" for some time, and the area in front of it where cars now park will have to be closed off in order for workers to make the area safer.
PNR public relations officer Annette Morales said, "I know from speaking to Myron … there has to be some restoration work on that eastern wall, and that's going to be dangerous."
Recently, after touring the fort and historic structures on St. Croix, a delegation of trades workers from Denmark skilled in traditional techniques offered to assist in rehabilitating the landmark buildings and to train local youths in the skills needed to maintain them. (See earlier story, "Danes offer aid to preserve historic structures".)
The Fort Christian parking lot is operated by Public Works, and Jackson says PNR will have to get its cooperation to patch the wall and restrict parking in the space alongside the fort.
In a few weeks, the portion of the parking lot nearest the crumbling wall will undergo its annual transformation into the V.I. Carnival Children's Village. Jackson said he would speak to members of the V.I. Carnival Committee to make them aware of conditions in the area.
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