In 2003, after 15 years of experiencing the decline of the Crucian economy with no remediation in sight, I withdrew into a self-centered life of working to maintain a simple but comfortable lifestyle. I withdrew from the community, frustrated that my attempts at community involvement resulted in the mediocrity of monotonous constancy – a lot of talking and nothing seemed to change, much less improve. Most business endeavors have floundered and stagnated on St. Croix. Ideas that should grow, falter. In short, good ideas rarely grow to full potential on our island.
Early in 2011, I lost my main souce of income and found myself wondering about financial survival in a community with limited employment choices. Years of work as a General Accountant prompted me to start a bookkeeping and tax business. I got my license and expected customers and work at home while studying for an IRS Tax Preparers exam. I decided to dedicate three years for business to grow to a level capable of sustaining my lifestyle. However, the economy is worse. I do not have enough clients to “survive.” I receive food stamps and have a vegetable garden. Money that would normally go to food will help with bills, but not sufficiently. Once I organized my plans, I found myself with some free time. During the period of organization, my 10 year old vehicles were out of service: one needed registering and the other a battery, neither of which I could afford at the time. I limited my traverses to the town of Frederiksted, on foot (I live in Est. LaGrange).
Once walking, I noticed that everything that simply “looks bad” when “driving by” looks abhorrent when walking.
Does the Town of Frederiksted have street maintenance? Grass and trees have started breaking up the sidewalks on many of the streets. Some guts in the drainage system are blocked by vegetation and leaves. Thankfully, litter is minimal. What will happen when we are in the midst of hurricane season and days of rain cause runoff carrying hundreds of pounds of branches, leaves & debris from Hill Street down to Strand Street and ultimately, the sea? Why are there full-grown ficus, mahogany and other large tropical trees growing among the ruins of the buildings our ancestors built? We should be working to preserve this historical artisan, the result of construction skills during a period without mechanical tools.
The sewage flowing into the “Harden” gut, which exits at “Frederiksted” Beach, from the pumping station near the Legislature Building is a health hazard. On occasions, raw sewage flows to the sea without any barrier between the edge of the gut and the sewage flow. Anyone could lose their balance and find him or herself in raw sewage. The washed out beach to the north of the”Frederiksted” Beach parking lot is not graded and repaired properly. This is disappointing. There is no barrier to protect anyone from falling over the edge of the embankment and being injured.
The state of the Ball Parks & Stadiums in Frederiksted town is despicable. They were vibrant in the 1970s & 1980s. Frederiksted has no major sport facility. The community is debating the benefits of a multimillion dollar sports complex. Rather than beginning simply and building from the ground floor up, someone seems to think it best to start at the top floor without a strong foundation. We can only hope that the Ball Park & Stadium will be razed and restored without the encumbrance of funds that the Virgin Islands government could spend for infrastructure improvements. A large sports complex will be appreciated once we have the necessary amenities for all citizens. What are we to enjoy for recreation when there are no sports activities or if not a sports enthusiast? A sports complex is a limited venue and will not save our economy. We need an economic overhaul. I hope that a more comprehensive plan of economic reform, which includes a sports complex, is forthcoming.
The graffiti on the seaside wall of Fort Frederik is disgusting. I toured the Fort and found that some of the ceilings need repair. Leaks have damaged the display documenting the discovery of a slave ship discovered by a citizen of the Country of Norway that transported slaves between St. Croix and Norway. At mid-afternoon, mid-week I was the only person appreciating the displays and structure. Do students visit this historic structure, constructed by our ancestors, to reinforce information studied in Virgin Island history classes? I saw no indication that students frequent this facility.
Workmanship that was substandard is now dilapidated in our 8-year-old Waterfront Park. This is distressful. Some of the column heads (apexes) are missing. Some of the protective chain links, which are safety barriers for a 10 ft. drop to rocks lining the shore, are broken and are left hanging. Some of the lighting is not working. Construction maintenance should be ongoing so that the park does not deteriorate into shabbiness.
Do I recall a solar “Eternal Flame” in the Verne Richard’s Veteran’s Park that symbolized the eternal remembrance of those who fought for the longstanding American institution of freedom? Am I to believe that a nonfunctional hand pump, filled with dirt, has permanently replaced it? Is this the visual symbolism we want exhibited to immortalize the memories of our local heroes?
The garbage strewn along the rocks at the base of the retaining wall along the waterfront is distressing. Many people stroll along the Frederiksted waterfront to enjoy both the view of Sandy Point and our pleasant Caribbean evenings.
Part II tomorrow,
For the sake of the Community,
LeVelle T. Henry
Est. LaGrange, Frederiksted, St. Croix