It would be interesting to know how much the Port Authority spent for the economic feasibility study ("St. Croix Action Agenda") showing that a year-'round ferry service between St. Thomas and St. Croix is the answer in large part to the big island's economic woes. If a ferry between the two islands were a money maker, someone would have been operating it nonstop for the last 30 years — at least.
Certainly we have nothing against a reliable 12-month ferry service between St. Thomas and St. Croix. We just don't see it as any kind of economic savior for St. Croix.
First, you'd have to have multitudes of people wanting to take the often rough hour-and-a-half trip from Charlotte Amalie to Christiansted and then back again — all year long. Who are they?
Does anyone really think large numbers of cruise ship passengers arriving on St. Thomas are going to flock to a ferry to spend three of their six or seven hours on land going back on the water over open seas to St. Croix? To do what? Frankly, we love shopping on St. Croix, but we don't know that tourists would travel all that way to do so, especially when the cruise lines repeatedly proclaim St. Thomas as the No. 1 shopping destination in the Caribbean. And don't discount the fact that the cruise ships have pushed their own retail shops in recent years.
Would the cruise ship visitors cross the water for a land tour? How would they have enough time?
The mistake that continues to be made is the attempt to make St. Croix a mirror image of St. Thomas. It isn't. It's not even the same island chain.
What St. Croix has that St. Thomas doesn't is lots of land. Land for hotels, ecotourism, farming and parks — industrial, technological, and maybe even cultural — and the list could go on. With its gently sloping hills, it is also much more bicycle and runner friendly.
There are already enterprises on St. Croix running interesting tours, on land and on water. But they have no one to sell the tours to.
However, before we think about luring hoteliers and technology-based businesses to the big island, a serious and immediate effort needs to be made to clean it up. Crime, sewage, dilapidated buildings and litter are not attractive to anyone. Nor are nearly-regular power outages and problematic local phone service conducive to enterprises that depend on computers and fax machines.
More than anything, though, Crucians need to pull together, not apart, and pool the precious resources that are available.
There are many tourist attractions on St. Croix, some better known than others — the Whim Greathouse, St. George Botanical Gardens, the self-drive Heritage Trail tour, heritage hikes, kayak tours, scuba and snorkeling and one of the most beautiful 18-hole public golf courses in the Caribbean.
Fredericksted has languished for many years, awaiting an infusion of cash that will help return it to its former glories. A real effort to draw investors from outside the territory to the western town must be made through low-interest building loans and other incentives.
But if we expect to draw people from outside to invest in cleaning up Fredericksted and making it the beautiful town it has the potential to be, we have to stop attacking those outsiders, both verbally and physically. It cannot all be done locally.
One need only look at Savannah, Georgia, or other towns where people, often gay people, with a love for design and history have turned devastated neighborhoods around. Contrast that with what happened on St. Croix two years ago — see "Incident at Cormorant resort turns ugly" — and ask yourself why anyone wants to come to St. Croix at all, much less invest in the island.
As long as the people of St. Croix continue to champion leaders who foster divisiveness and hatred of anything they don't understand or that is different, this dreamed-of revitalization will never happen.
It is time for Crucians to take a good look at the people who are digging the ground out from underneath them — and to stop supporting them. A serious, immediate and genuinely concerted effort by all of the stakeholders could turn St. Croix's wilted economy around. And never forget: What's good for potential investors in terms of infrastructure improvements, beefed-up police presence and rebuilding of the physical as well as the economic infrastructure also is good for residents.
St. Croix is not and never will be an important cruise ship destination. It is something much lovelier and more important than that. It is a land of plenty that holds great potential to be a big ecotourism destination for overnight visitors, a land of opportunity for historical renovation and a place where clean industry could flourish.
It's time to move forward with reality in mind and do something practical to save St. Croix — now.
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