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HomeNewsArchivesWHAT'S A KID TO DO? -- OR AN ADULT FOR THAT MATTER?

WHAT'S A KID TO DO? — OR AN ADULT FOR THAT MATTER?

The rule-breakers were flagrantly out in force last weekend — kids flying kites, families picnicking and, more than likely (though not seen by this observer), a dude or two cavorting with a dog on the spacious "green" of the University of the Virgin Islands St. Thomas campus — also known as the Herman E. Moore Golf Course.
"Eh?" you probably say.
Yeah, that's all against the rules now.
So are bicycling, skateboarding, roller skating and roller blading on the concrete expanse of the Crown Bay cruise ship dock in nearby Sub Base.
Commercial-quality signs in blue lettering replete with the UVI logo recently cropped up along the perimeter of the golf course. They read: "The use of this course is for golf only. Vehicle driving, pets, picnics, kite/plane flying ARE PROHIBITED. Please keep the course clean and litter free. — University of the Virgin Islands Athletic Department."
New signs also greet those approaching the athletic fields across the road: "Use of the playing fields for all organized activities including practice must be approved by the University of the Virgin Islands Athletic Department. Vehicle driving, pets, picnics, kite/plane flying ARE PROHIBITED."
Meanwhile, over at Crown Bay, the sole but sizable sign — in red letters atop a crazily listing pole that must have taken quite a shove — reads: "NO water recreational vehicles, bicycles, skateboards, roller skates, roller blades are allowed on these premises." No mention is made of the authority being invoked, but, again, it's commercial-quality sign, and one logically assumes it is the Port Authority.
A friend of mine pointed these signs out to me recently, in highly emotional terms. "Where," she railed, "are the signs that say DO this, DO that — DO HERE the good, clean fun things that we keep saying we want our kids to do instead of hanging out and getting into trouble?"
This mother of two energetic boy children went on: "These are public places. Who asked the public whether kids should be allowed to play there?"
Um, I interjected, it probably has something to do with liability.
"The guys fishing off the edge of the dock at Crown Bay are a lot more likely to fall in than kids riding their bikes or skating in the middle of that huge concrete pad," she said derisively. "And how often do you see anybody playing golf at the golf course?"
The powers that be undoubtedly are prepared to justify their prohibitions in the name of public safety, public interest and the public good. Indeed, in one instance this week they felt compelled to do so.
The Daily News in its issue of Tuesday, July 27, carried on page 3 a charming human interest photo of a 7-year-old girl getting her kite up in the air the day before. Unfortunately, she was doing it on the green at UVI. Little did the newspaper know that it was picturing in such a positive light a blatant rule-breaker.
It soon found out, however, and the next day's paper carried, also on page 3, a story quoting the UVI public relations director and an Athletic Department employee on the rules and regs and whys and wherefores.
My friend doesn't want to hear it, though. She just wants to know: Where are kids supposed to play on this island of treacherous terrain, narrow roads with no sidewalks, and hardly any open spaces that are flat and traffic-free?
The UVI green (which is actually brown most of the year but takes its name from its golfing function) has been the scene for years of "Afternoon on the Green," an annual picnic of humongous proportions produced by UVI itself. And it has long been the place of preference for flying kites on St. Thomas. It's soft underfoot, it's open to the sky, it's huge, it's buffeted by breezes, it's protected. A kite-flying demonstration/competition held there a couple of Father's Days ago attracted dozens of colorful, creative kites and hundreds of participants and/or enchanted onlookers. Just about the only way a kid can get into trouble flying a kite is by getting the string tangled in the power lines along the road — and it's the kites, not the lines, that suffer.
One of the main reason the golfers complain about other folks using the green is that public maintenance of the grounds is sporadic, and the golfers themselves must clean up after anyone who litters.
Now, where can young people ride bikes and boards and roller skate or blade on St. Thomas? We know all too well that they can play dodge-em on the hilly highways, usually after dark and without lights, reflectors or protective headgear. Somehow, the dock seems safer — and ever so much more functional than in sand, on gravel or through the bush.
As for romping with Rover, the road is not recommended, again for reasons relating to survival. Most dogs love to play at the beach, but most beaches have signs up about that, too.
So what IS a kid to do?
Decades ago, they say, there was a bowling alley on St. Thomas. A skating rink, too. The St. Thomas Swimming Association has been trying for more than a decade to raise (with no public support) funds for a swimming pool. There used to be a pool, too, in Long Bay near where the Rising Stars pan yard is now, along with public tennis courts.
Nowadays, adults complain that youngsters just hang out on the streets and in the arcades. What options is the community offering them?
The problem is clear. Solutions remain murky. Keep in mind here (as with most of the problems our community faces), "where there's a will, there's a way."
Some suggestions:
* Designate golfing hours at the golf course (the few faithful duffers are mainly retirees, so weekdays is just fine) and post new signs outlawing anything else on the green at those hours, but welcome the rest of the well-behaved community on weekends.
* Create a public bicycling path on flat terrain on the campus and around the perimeter of the adjacent Cyril E. King Airport.
(The sidewalk around the airport is another whole issue. Drop by around 6:30 a.m. or p.m. any weekday and marvel at the masses of humanity that emerge from their air-conditioned cars to take their constitutional on the longest expanse of flat space free of motor vehicles around — walking, jogging, running, rollerblading, skateboarding, bicycling and yes, even walking their dogs! And kudos to the Port Authority, or whomever, for creating an expanded parking lot beyond the new landscaped area to accommodate their cars!)
* Create a functional park on those 7.5 acres of controversial landfill at Long Bay in the manner of those that dot the Miami area: with separate pedestrian and bicycle paths, exercise stations, benches and lots of well-kept green grass and tall, shady trees. While you're at it, rehab the ol' swimming pool and tennis courts, too.
All this is gonna take a fair amount of will.
Meantime, the kite flyers, picnickers and dog lovers can use the Crown Bay concrete (it's mighty hot, but there's no sign saying they can't), and the bicyclers, skateboarders and roller skaters can cruise on the green. . . slowly.
Editors' note: Jean Etsinger is a freelance journalist on St. Thomas. She doesn't have a dog, never learned to skateboard or rollerblade, doesn't own a bike and never could get a kite to fly.

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