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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, February 23, 2024


Virgin Islands officials are still high-fiving over Sinbad's decision to hold his Soul Music Festival in St. Thomas this year.
With good reason. The four-day festival over the Memorial Day weekend should bring thousands of new visitors to our shores, pump millions of dollars into our economy, bring millions more worth of positive publicity and have long-term impact in the form of excitement and return visitors.
But this will happen only if we do what we need to do to make this festival a success.
Persuading Sinbad to hold it here was a splendid example of the kind of public-private partnership that is often talked about here but seldom happens. This time it did. The public and private sectors joined forces and won the day. Now they need to do that again to brainstorm potential landmines and remove them.
One that comes immediately to mind is the rundown, decrepit condition of the Sub Base area where the bulk of the big concerts will be held. It is, in many spots, an eyesore.
The Tourism Department should take the lead in bringing together officials from various agencies — including Public Works, the Agriculture Department and the Port Authority — with area landowners to devise ways to beautify that business-industrial zone. If the Tourism Department can't or won't do it, someone else needs to — perhaps the St. Thomas administrator. But ultimately it is up to Gov. Charles W. Turnbull to make sure this happens.
The spruce-up team can start with a plan to remove derelict vehicles, move on to replanting both public and private areas with flowering bushes and graceful trees, and spearhead a few cleanup/paint-up/fix-up days using volunteers from service clubs and other community organizations. We could even set up a plant donation center that green thumbs could contribute to.
Sub Base is only one area that needs attention, of course. The long-lamented, long-neglected strip from the Cyril E. King Airport to downtown Charlotte Amalie — which every one of the expected 8,000 or so visitors will pass — is, in many spots, an equal mess. We won't point any fingers but, again, a joint public-private beautification effort could provide some quick, Band-aid improvements.
The economic potential of the Sinbad festival may just be the incentive we need to spruce up these islands. After all, we want these visitors to be impressed with what we're offering, and we want them to come back. The way to ensure that is to take a hard, critical look at ourselves and make the improvements we need to make.
May is around the corner. This needs to start immediately.
We welcome your comments on this editorial or related issues. Send your views to St. Thomas Source via e-mail at source@viaccess.net.

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