March 27, 2005 – The north shore and the south shore of St. Croix are dotted with enclaves of tents this Easter weekend in a tradition that is reportedly over a half century old.
One special camping area is Cramer's Park on the East End. Seventy-five tents were counted there Sunday. Inside that special camping area is a special group the Positive Works Unity Retreat Camp. The almost 50 youngsters and 15 adults involved in this retreat were not hard to spot, most of them had on T-shirts saying "Think Positive, Be Positive, Live Positive."
The retreat is the brainchild of Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson. He started it eight years ago while he was still a school teacher. He originated it as a treat for counselors after summer camp, but since then it has expanded and moved to a time of the year when more youngsters could take advantage of it.
For the first three years the retreat was held at Salt River. He laughed when it was pointed out that since Salt River use is under scrutiny now that the move to Cramer's was probably wise. However, he is probably aware too that the use of Cramer's Park for intensive camping has been questioned since the park has become part of a maritime park.
But this year is going really well, according to Nelson. He said turnout the last two years had fallen off, but a push was made to attract youngsters this year and he is happy with the 48 youngsters participating.
A couple of the youngsters also said they were happy to be participating. Crystal Smalls, 15, a student at Charlotte Amalie High School, said she liked all the different things they were doing, "but really liked the swimming."
The youngsters start each morning of the five-day camp out with exercises and end the day with a group discussion, "real talk." Nelson said, "We are trying to probe the minds of teenagers here." However he added that the teenagers choose the topics of discussion.
Crystal, like Delroy Osborne, 17, of the Seventh Day Adventist School, liked the karaoke contests also.
Osborne said, "It has been an uplifting experience, and it has not been childish." He praised the counselors, "They are the best."
As he talked, a counselor, Eustace "Boomer" James, was calling participants together for a hike up Goat Hill. Earlier Easter morning, many had attended a sunrise service at Point Udall.
Although Nelson was positive about what was happening this weekend, he was not appreciative of the bands playing till late hours at the park. He said the bands and the accompanying crowds, which had nothing to do with his retreat, had at times put people involved in the retreat "on edge."
Nelson, however, is not against music. He said that he puts on his speakers every morning to wake up his campers, "One Love" by Bob Marley.
As he talked with this reporter, a police van passed, Nelson said, "The police presence has been good."
Staff at the retreat included, besides Nelson and James: Stephanie "Empress Steph" James, executive assistant; Ana Montanez, receptionist; Claude "Bird" Bird, chief of staff; Sonia Andrew, assistant researcher; and Karl Knight, chief researcher.
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