Jan. 9, 2006 St. Croix resident Julie Wright got an unexpected and unwanted tour of St. John Monday when she caught a taxi in Cruz Bay for a trip to the John's Folly Learning Institute to speak at the Coral Bay Community Council meeting. She had arrived from St. Thomas on the 6 p.m. ferry from Red Hook.
"We went from Cruz Bay to Caneel Bay to Cinnamon Bay and back to Cruz Bay to get gas," Wright said when she finally arrived at the meeting just after 8 p.m.
Caneel Bay and Cinnamon Bay are located on the North Shore Road, which the taxi driver had no need to take if he was headed to John's Folly. Centerline Road would be a more appropriate and direct route.
She said the taxi driver then told her to take the bus. After telling him no, he finally headed back out for the trip to John's Folly. When Community Council president Sharon Coldren eventually got hold of Wright on her cell phone, she and the taxi driver were near Reef Bay on Centerline Road.
Coldren said that Wright told her the taxi driver didn't know where the John's Folly Learning Institute was located. Coldren then sent member Kent Irish to meet her at Shipwreck Landing.
While waiting for Wright to arrive, Muriel Dalmida complained that such service was unacceptable.
"We are not going to be left behind. Report it tomorrow," she said.
She and several other people said they were astounded that the taxi driver didn't know how to find John's Folly, located far out on Route 107.
Irish said when he returned with Wright that the taxi was marked with Westin Taxi WB.
Coldren said that she had contacted the taxi dispatcher in the morning to organize Wright's transportation. She said she was assured there would be no problems.
Wright, the resource, conservation and development coordinator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service, is based on St. Croix. She had been on St. Thomas for a meeting and made the trip to St. John to talk about the Estate Bethlehem, St. Croix stormwater retention pond project.
"Bethlehem is the largest watershed on St. Croix," she said.
The Community Council wanted to hear about this project because the organization is working on ways to keep sediment out of Coral Bay Harbor.
Wright said the farmer Hermino Torres had an area that flooded regularly from a culvert that funneled water off Queen Mary Highway. The pond captures the water. It feeds into a trough for Torres to use for his animals. But it also collects sediment. Wright said that in about two months, about a foot of sediment was deposited in some parts of the four-foot-deep pond.
She said collecting the water also helps recharge the aquifer that sits below.
Wright said that the Planning and Natural Resources Department anted up $112,966 for the project. Natural Resources Conservation Service added $83,200 worth of in-kind funding. Another $16,000 will come from a cost-sharing program with the farmer.
Elvis Marsh, an organization member working on this project, said the water could be used for landscaping.
"You don't need processed water," he said, referring to the desalinized water produced by the V.I. Water and Power Authority.
He said that such a pond could be constructed on what Coral Bay area residents call "the flats." This is the large area at the base of the hills that frame Coral Bay.
Coldren said that the University of the Virgin Islands Conservation Data Center has completed a conceptual study of where to place a pond.
As the nine people who attended the meeting waited for Wright to arrive, Coldren talked about the organization's recent work on the Guy Benjamin School playground.
She said the community raised $15,000 to reconstruct the playground and buy equipment. She said another $10,000 to $15,000 came in the form of donated labor.
Coldren said the group needs another $15,000 to finish the project.
"We'll go to the Education Department, but we'll continue to raise money too," she said.
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