June 24, 2005 – Speakers at the Friday dedication ceremony of the Canegata Park recreation center in Christiansted shared a common theme: This is a great building, we have to maintain it.
The building, which took about 18 months to complete, has rooms for cardiovascular training and aerobics classes, a kitchen, an auditorium, restrooms with showers, a community room to be supplied with computers, and offices for Housing, Parks and Recreation staff.
However, Dean Plaskett, commissioner of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, told the gathering of about 50 people that the original $200,000 for the project was set aside in 2001. The DPNR wanted to allocate another $200,000 from Community Block Grant funds the following year, but the Senate did not approve the measure.
In the end DPNR administered $240,000 in block grant money for the building, while Housing, Parks and Recreation came up with the other $200,000.
Roy Canton Jr., planning and maintenance supervisor for the Department of Housing, gave tours of the building. He said he was not sure when equipment would arrive to make all the rooms functional. He said he had ordered the equipment for the cardiovascular room, which included tread mills and other exercise equipment.
Marc Biggs, commissioner of the Department of Property and Procurement — as well as grandson of David C. Canegata, after whom the park is named — said he planned to use some of that equipment.
Biggs added that after being introduced at a function with, "Here is Commissioner Biggs, all 300 pounds of him," he started to think about his weight. He said, "Some of those alleged 300 pounds are no longer here."
Other speakers noted that the facility might help the growing obesity problem being discussed in the national media.
Canton said steps and mats had already been ordered for the aerobic activity room, but as yet, he did not know if any programs had been set up. He said, "I just build."
Ophelia Williams-Jackson, deputy commissioner of Housing, gave the welcoming remarks.
Before the ceremony she answered questions about the setup of the computer room. She said her department already has 20 computers on order 10 will go to LBJ Gardens and 10 to Canegata. She said they should be in place by the end of the summer.
She also said she envisioned scheduling different hours for different groups: school groups, the young and the elderly. She said demand might be so great that time in the room has to be reserved.
One big question now is whether the Crucian Christmas Festival will be using the building. The Christmas Festival has been held in Frederiksted the last two years since both the newly completed recreation center and Times Square in Christiansted were under construction.
St. Clair Williams, assistant commissioner of Housing, was master of ceremonies. He said the Festival Committee had been sent a letter informing the committee that the building was available for its use.
The building also has a variety of rooms that will be available for community organizations and such programs as health screenings.
Mention was also made of pool tables and ping-pong tables being placed in the main room, but no date was announced.
Sen. Norman Jn Baptiste also made remarks during the ceremony. He said this was a day of double celebration. He said residents could celebrate the opening of this building and also Tim Duncan leading the Spurs to victory the evening before.
David C. Canegata Jr. cut the ceremonial ribbon.
Williams said Canegata Sr. was a pioneer in the movement to bring recreation facilities to St. Croix. The park was established and named after him in 1957.
In her remarks, Jackson-Williams urged residents, "Make good use of it. Embrace it and take care of it."
Plaskett said one of the reasons that DPNR did not hesitate to support the project was that there were no affordable recreation facilities on the island for lower- and middle-class residents.
Officials said that when it is necessary to charge fees for programs, the fees will be minimal.
Gregory Francis, St. Croix administrator, wrapped up the speakers portion of the ceremony. He said one way the community could make sure the building is maintained is by each community member seeing them as part owner of the building.
Kareem Smith, who won first place in a Housing musical awards program, provided musical entertainment.
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