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Better Days Are Ahead

Dear Source:
I have been to perhaps a dozen islands in the Caribbean. On each
island, I have found the good and the bad, just as I have found both
good and bad in every city or tourist site I have visited in the
states. When I booked a trip to St Croix for this past spring, the
decision was met with surprise by some. Surely I had heard of other
islands, they asked. And what about crime? Why go to St. Croix when
there were so many other opportunities? Undeterred, my family and I
made the trip. And what was our experience? We, frankly, were quite
charmed by the place. St. Croix features a diverse economy, beautiful
scenery and friendly people. Like all islands, and all American
cities, it faces real issues including lack of opportunity for some
of the youth and drugs among other issues. But St. Croix also
features visionary people who have identified the problems and are
planning a better future.
We were so taken with the island that we bought property with
plans of someday building on the island and perhaps living there at
least part time. The prices are very reasonable by Caribbean
standards, the island is beautiful and there is so much to offer.
We are aware of Fountain Valley and that awful day three plus decades
ago. We are aware that there are real problems that must be
addressed. But we also are aware of the wonderful people we met, the
new opportunities arriving on the island, the leading citizens who
are working diligently to build a better future, and all the charm and
beauty that is somehow forgotten in the noise. My view is that St.
Croix is undersold. Its good points are washed over while its bad
points are overstated. Certainly there are issues that must be dealt
with. Yet this is the reality of the world anywhere you go. St.
Croix is no different in that respect.
Many islands in the Caribbean have developed at such a rapid pace
that they have lost their identities. St. Croix has remained below
the radar for many tourists and, therefore, has had time to reflect on
its past and try to carve out a more planned and coordinated future.
A few years ago, it could be safely stated that St. Croix was
undiscovered, still languishing in the aftermath of Fountain Valley
and Hurricane Hugo. But such is no longer the case. Americans are
discovering the beautiful scenery, the great beaches, the wonderful
waters and warm and inviting people. Christensted is as charming a
harbor as you will find in the Caribbean and the diverse topography
of the island is not matched by many places.
Americans are beginning to buy land in St. Croix, both as private
residences and commercial ventures. I see this process accelerating
in the future. I would urge the leaders of the island to explore
ways to use these opportunities to the betterment of the residents.
Perhaps, allying with colleges that teach hotel and resort management
or business will prepare more of the youth for the coming tourist
boom that the island almost surely faces.
Many of you have lived in the shadow of Fountain Valley and that
awful day for decades. Yet I see a new day dawning for St. Croix.
One filled with hope and optimism and opportunity. It is now time
for all of us who have a stake in St. Croix to put the past truly
behind us as we face and embrace and shape our collective future. It
is this belief that has compelled me to buy into the island, its
culture and its people and to share, at least partly, in our collective
futures. Some may think that I am mistaken; however, I truly believe
that our best days are ahead of us.
Ben Emanuel
South Carolina and St. Croix

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.

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