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Merchants Question Timing of Park Renovation


While many agree that Cruz Bay Park needs to be upgraded, area merchants question why the work must be done during the height of the winter tourist season.

The park, also called Franklin Powell Park, is the centerpiece of the Cruz Bay waterfront area. Currently it’s closed and surrounded by a big fence. The sidewalk that runs along the waterfront side of the park is inside the fenced-in area, which means people must walk in the street.

Access to Captain’s Corner gift shop, JJ’s Texas Coast Café restaurant and the park entrance to Coral Bay Jewelers is hard to find. The gate between the Tourism Department courtyard and the park is normally open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, but St. John Administrator Leona Smith said that Captain’s Corner will have a key to keep the gate open until the store closes at 6 p.m. and on weekends.

This will allow access from the north side of the park for those three businesses. From the south side, there’s an entrance on the small road that leads from the ferry dock to the intersection with FirstBank. The entrance is about mid-way up the street.

The timing of the park project at the height of the winter tourism season doesn’t sit well with Jean Jewell, who owns JJ’s.

“We’re going to suffer,” Jewell said.

Her restaurant provides al fresco dining with a view of the park. That view is gone, and once the actual construction starts up, diners will have to contend with noise and dirt.

Tom Krall, who owns Coral Bay Jewelers, had even harsher words.

“It’s rude. There is no reason for it to happen now,” he said.

While Coral Bay Jewelers has a street side entrance that allows easier access and doors that close to keep out the dirt and some noise, he said that JJ’s will suffer the most.

Captain’s Corner manager Peggy Sloan sees it as “short-term pain for long-term gain.”

However, she said there are challenges ahead but doesn’t plan to close during the construction.

Work should wrap up by mid-June. While the timing coincides with St. John’s Festival, Smith said that wasn’t a consideration when deciding on when to do the job. She said that Pan-O-Rama, which is usually at the beginning of June, will have to be moved to the parking lot across from the post office because Cruz Bay Park won’t be available.

Smith said that the job needed to wrap up by June because that’s the start of hurricane season, which could interrupt work.

Crews will do landscaping, place new benches and install an underground electricity system for new lighting. Smith said the concrete walkways will be paved with bricks.

“Franklin Powell Park is the first attraction most people experience when they enter Cruz Bay. The park stands at the entrance to the beautiful town, and should be a gem for this community and its visitors,” Gov. John deJongh said in a press release.

The project will cost $336,000. Apex Construction is the contractor.

Krall had no issue with the fact that the park needs an upgrade.

“The park is badly laid out. I think it’s going to be considerably nicer,” he said.

As for the safety issue that arises when pedestrians can’t use the sidewalk on the waterfront side of the park—and the congestion that comes with taxis, villa managers and other drivers all trying to get through the same bottlenecked space near the ferry—Smith said police officers will be on duty to keeps traffic flowing.

Smith also said that signs will be posted to direct people to park-facing businesses and around the construction areas.

Due to the closure, organizers of the St. John Arts Festival, to be held Feb. 19–25 in Cruz Bay, will relocate the event to the baseball field adjacent to the V.I. National Park Visitors Center. Government work crews will erecting a stage for the performance of the 73rd Army Band and provide electricity to the alternate venue.


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