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Closing Postponed: Red Hook Parking Lot to Stay Open Until After July 4

June 27, 2007 — A day after announcing the closing of the Red Hook Marine Terminal parking lot until further notice, V.I. Port Authority Board Chairman Robert O'Connor Jr. said late Wednesday that drivers will be able to park there at least through the July 4th Celebration on St. John.
The Port Authority sent out a press release Tuesday announcing that the lot was closed and would remain so indefinitely for construction purposes.
"That was bad public relations," O'Connor said.
The announcement raised concerns among residents and government officials because hundreds of drivers park at Red Hook while attending July 4th Celebration events.
The Port Authority changed its tune throughout the day. Initially Port Authority spokesman Marc Stridiron said the lot would stay closed. Sen. Carmen Wesselhoft sent out a news release announcing the lot would stay open, but Stridiron said he had no information about Wesselhoft's claim. After receiving a copy of the release, however, Stridiron called back to say the contractor, Island Roads, had agreed to keep the lot open "until such time as it needed to exclude cars."
When asked if that meant until after the July 4th Celebration ended, he said "that's not certain."
There will be no charge to park at the lot until after the construction is finished, O'Connor said.
Wesselhoft took credit for the Port Authority's change of heart.
“I was successful in my efforts to get Port Authority to rescind this directive, and the parking lot will be reopened,” she said.
While the parking lot will need to close temporarily for construction, it would be better to do so after the July 4th Celebration was over, Wesselhoft said. To close it indefinitely would further contribute to traffic woes at Red Hook, she said.
"Red Hook is a mess on a regular workday," she said.
Wesselhoft also called on the Port Authority to provide shuttle service during the July 4th Celebration to assist people who have to park in the lot west of Eudora Kean High School.
"This is quite a distance for small children and older people expected to walk, and we can't have parents leaving their children alone on the dock while they park a half-mile away," Wesselhoft said.
The Port Authority has no plans to provide a shuttle service, Stridiron said. It takes him about five to seven minutes to make the trip to the ferry dock from the parking lot west of Eudora Kean, he said, but indicated it could take slower walkers up to 15 minutes.
The Red Hook terminal building is still available for people dropping off passengers, he noted.
Parking issues in both Cruz Bay and Red Hook make commuting between the two islands "incredibly" stressful," Wesselhoft said.
Stridiron said the Red Hook Marine Terminal parking lot has a capacity of about 60 to 70 cars, but O'Connor said he thought the number was less. However, O'Connor added that any parking spaces lost had an impact on the Red Hook parking situation.
Parking is even tighter than usual in Cruz Bay thanks to the closure of the Port Authority parking lot, located across from the Post Office. The lot houses the July 4th Celebration village and will be closed until vendors take down their booths. This usually occurs a few days after the event ends on July 4th.
Drivers may now park at the Winston Wells Ballfield, but it is more than half filled with a stage and associated trailers used for the July 4th Celebration shows.
The dirt government parking lot next to Nature's Nook has been closed for more than a week in preparation for paving. However, it appears that paving is about to begin, but Deputy Public Works Commissioner Ira Wade could not be reached for confirmation.
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