Frydenhoj buzzed with anticipation on Wednesday at a town hall hosted by members of the Department of Sports, Parks, and Recreation to discuss plans for a playground, skate, and bike park at the Ezra Fredericks Facility on St. Thomas, which has traditionally been used for baseball.
“The reason that we’re here today is we have a potential project that I wanted to put out to the community,” said DSPR Commissioner Calvert White.
He added that the division has been working on the project for two years. White said they have been trying to find a new location, instead of the basketball court in Anna’s Retreat, for children to skateboard and ride bikes.
“We have a great opportunity to create a safe space,” said White.
Feedback from the audience of about 50 persons was mostly positive. Some inquired about the additional amenities that could possibly be included, such as bathrooms, a concession stand, and elevated bleachers; some inquired about the location of the playground, and others pushed for continued maintenance of the facility once it is renovated.
“Maintenance is a number one issue. My ask is to the donors and contributors to consider locking in and contributing to maintaining. This facility has kind of been ignored by the department. We can see that this facility can be much better,” said DPNR Deputy Commissioner Athneil “Bobby” Thomas.
Sen. Marvin Blyden expressed concern for those who have been using the park for sports and recreation outside of skating, bike riding, and basketball.
“I don’t want it to take away from those who come to play cricket and baseball on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays,” said Blyden.
“This facility was created as a baseball facility. I do not want to take away from the children on the East End of this island,” said White, who acknowledged that children and adults use the facility to play soccer, cricket, rounders, and football. He added that “all entities could co-exist” and that “a lot of our facilities are multi-use facilities.”
The V.I. government was originally anticipated, through the use of FEMA funds, to assist in funding the project. However, White said that because of the slow process, the Virgin Islands Sports Federation or Virgin Islands Surfing Federation, a non-profit, is leading the charge for the renovation of the facility. They are funding the $250,000-plus project through community donations and will receive one-third of the facility to serve as a skate park.
“It becomes a place where people hang out and community is built,” said Alex Israel, project manager for the Virgin Islands Surfing Federation.
The skate and bike park will take up green space adjacent to the basketball court near the southern entrance of the facility.
Sen. Angel Bolques Jr. asked about the size of the playground and park, to which White replied, “Nothing is set in stone.” White said the town hall was meant to get public feedback to guide the project.
Israel said that the renovations can start in March 2024 with a three- to four-month buildout.
“If done properly, it’s a 25-plus year, zero to no maintenance. It’s a long-term investment that will last,” said Israel.
Blyden questioned the assurability that community partners will complete the project. White, who has already received commitment letters for the project, replied that there will be a legally binding document and “MOU,” or memorandum of understanding, between parties.
While the project is slated to occur in Frydenhoj, the DSPR commissioner said that he is open to suggested places.
“The reason why we like this [Fredericks facility] is because it’s an easy way to get out here [transportation-wise].”
A member of the audience suggested building around “the bridge to nowhere” in Nadir, but according to White, an anticipated water project is slated to be there.
White mentioned that future plans to create a soccer pitch and cricket pitch in Estate Nazareth and to reopen Lionel Roberts Stadium are being discussed.
For more information, contact the Department of Sports Park and Recreation at 340-774-025. The Virgin Islands Board Sports Federation can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.