It was all smiles Tuesday at the groundbreaking ceremony of the Vincent F. Mason Sr. Coral Resort in Frederiksted, as work gets underway to rebuild the pool and facilities destroyed four years ago by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
The event was held by the Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation. After the twin 2017 hurricanes destroyed the park the department and the Office of Disaster Recovery worked together to receive more than $2 million in grant funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The reconstruction is slated to be completed by the second quarter of 2022.
Commissioner of Sports, Parks and Recreation Calvert White said that in conversations with FEMA he was asked to relocate the pool because the plans initially extended the pool about six feet.
“FEMA said we will give you the funds to build a brand-new pool, but you will have to move the pool from where it is located right now,” said White.
After the discussion, White put together a list of 10 St. Croix community members to ask their thoughts. He said he initially could only contact two of those on his list but both made it clear the pool needed to stay at its current location.
Some of the repairs that visitors to the park can expect are new security lights, a lifeguard station and chairs, lights and fencing for turtle nesting, new benches, a new barbecue station, new volleyball nets and posts, tiki huts, restroom repairs, a guard stand and what seemed to be the main highlight – the pool.
Guests at the groundbreaking included Gov. Albert Bryan Jr., Lt. Governor Tregenza A. Roach, St. Croix Administrator Sammuel Sanes, Director of the Office of Disaster Recovery Adrienne L. Williams-Octalien, Sen. Samuel Carrion, Sen. Novelle E. Francis and Lavern P. Joseph, representing Delegate to Congress Stacey E. Plaskett.
Speakers reflected on how the park is a pivotal landmark for St. Croix, recalling their times visiting the park. Some speakers learned to swim at the pool.
Williams-Octalien shared a quote by Nelson Mandela: “Remember to celebrate the milestones as you prepare for the road ahead.”
“Today I am going to celebrate because if you know the road we had to walk to get here, you would be celebrating too,” she said.
Williams-Octalien said it took partnership, patience, and progress in order for the project’s funding to be passed. She also reflected on Vincent F. Mason Sr., the man for whom the park is named.
“We owe him and his family to ensure that the facility that bears his name is representative as such,” she said.
Augustine J. Mason, the son of Vincent F. Mason Sr., said the pool was important to the family.
“My dad was a conscientious person, ex-military, family man, community man, and he put a lot into this pool,” he said.
He also spoke of his father’s time spent taking care of the pool so that people could swim, and of taking care of other parks throughout St. Croix.
Francis, who represented Senate President Donna A. Frett-Gregory, said, “To be honest with you, I like groundbreaking, but I love ribbon cutting,” reflecting on all the projects that are ongoing in Frederiksted and looking forward to their completion. Some of the reconstruction projects include the beautification of Strand Street in Frederiksted, the rebuild of the Midre Cummings Park, repairs to the pier at the Ann E. Abramson Marine Facility and the reconstruction of the Paul E. Joseph Stadium.
Bryan said action is taking place throughout the territory.
“Now is a time to make dreams come true,” he said. “A transformation of an entire territory, not to return to yesteryear and what we were, but to the boundless promise of tomorrow, while keeping the culture and the spirit of what makes each one of these towns unique.”
Vincent F. Mason Sr., who was born and raised on St. Croix, was described as an “avid sports fan and supporter of athletic activities.” He worked at the Department of Conservation and Cultural Affairs that would later be named the Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation.”