Feb. 25, 2005 Fort Christian on St. Thomas is a territorial and a national treasure, but the manner in which it is maintained by some government operatives, engender questions of its value to the territory.
I know that there are some personnel in government who really care about the state of this territorial and national treasure, but there others who appear not to have as much interest in it. The value of Fort Christian to the community of St. Thomas is beyond estimate from a cultural and historic perspective. The upkeep and maintenance of Fort Christian should never be in question. Every town, city, county and state in the world which has some historic structure(s), act to ensure that the historic and cultural aspects are preserved for the benefit of the residents and visitors. So, why not maintain Fort Christian? Do we not see its value?
Today's generation and future generations of Virgin Islanders must be taught about the history of this structure and its meaning and value to the community. As for our visitors, we must not assume that they are only interested in going downtown to buy merchandise. Some visitors want to see something historic and cultural as well.
It is estimated that over 5, 000 visitors have visited the Fort since 1971; and perhaps more could have visited if it was properly promoted.
Danish history in the Virgin Islands is a fact and cannot be changed or altered; Fort Christian was the most prominent structure in the 1600s when the Danes came to St. Thomas. It was the town in itself where everything happened; all government activities were conducted from that structure.
The commissioners of Public Works and Planning and Natural Resources must act to restore the Fort and cease the procrastination. The Fort might not be on their priority list of projects, but the community at large should call upon them to do something before the structure deteriorates any further.
I understand that a $1.2 million grant was approved in September 2004 from the Federal Highway Administration, so at least some seed money is in place or available. There is no excuse for lack of funding.
The commissioner of Tourism and the president of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce should also form a joint task force to push for the commencement of renovations on Fort Christian. It is a territorial and national cultural and historic structure and embodies the history of St. Thomas.
Editor's note: Eric Dawson is a former V.I. commissioner of the Economic Development and Agriculture Department, four-term member of the V. I. Legislature, (1973-1979; 1985-1987). He has also served as program manager for the U. S. Small Business Administration, Small Business Development Centers, Washington, D.C.