While it is not uncommon to complain that there’s nothing for kids to do in the territory, Sports, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Calvert White on Monday told a group of V.I. lawmakers that’s simply not true, and brought a list of programs his department sponsors as proof.
White also presented the Senate Committee on Youth, Sports, Parks and Recreation solutions for various maintenance problems plaguing the territory’s courts and parks.
“I have heard several times from members of our community that there is nothing for our kids to do,” White said, “This is not a true statement.”
There are 17 programs on St. Croix, 17 on St. Thomas and five on St. John, he said. Some of the programs offered within the last year include gymnastics, dance, swimming, music and gardening.
The following is a list of recreational programs in the territory that are still scheduled for the year:
St. Thomas Programs
– R.B.I. Baseball Fall League, Nov. 8 – Dec. 22
– Trevor “TJ” Joseph 8 to 12 Baseball Tournament, Nov. 1 – Nov. 16
– Thanksgiving Basketball Tournament, Nov. 27 – Dec. 1
– Ralph “Froggy” Johnson Basketball Tournament, Dec. 6 – Dec. 20
– La Leche Baseball Program, Oct. 15 – Nov. 19
St. John Program
– Seniors Bingo, Sept. 20 – Nov. 22
There are no programs remaining for the year on St. Croix, he said. They have all been completed.
White also updated the committee on the department’s 61 Federal Emergency Management Agency projects.
White said the Office of Disaster Recovery designated two of the department’s projects as a priority, the Vincent Mason Pool on St. Croix and the Clinton E. Phipps Racetrack on St. Thomas. Because the racetrack was awarded to a “private vendor to rebuild and manage the facility, that project has been designated as a 428 project.” This means the funds awarded for the racetrack, $4.1 million, can be transferred to another project. No decisions have been finalized, but the two possible alternate projects are the Emile Griffith Ballpark or the creation of a multipurpose field on the eastern end of St. Thomas.
Social media posts point to a simpler problem that demands attention, not the large projects what Sen. Javan James Sr. called “low hanging fruit” – lighting.
“One of the biggest issues that hampered the department following the storms was the absence of working lights at our parks, fields and basketball courts. To many, this may sound like an easy task to fix but I assure you, it was not,” White said.
Several hundred units of 1,500-watt bulbs are needed for fields and White said the 1,000-watt bulbs for basketball courts are not easy to get on the island. Instead, the department had to solicit vendors and made the decision to purchase $20,000 worth of light bulbs. Some bulbs go for as much as $75 each.
“Although the figure sounds high, it was not enough,” White said. Another $10,000 was procured, but White said even with $30,000 in light bulbs, the parks and courts could remain dim.
“While we are now in possession of light bulbs, I want to make it clear that having these bulbs on hand won’t solve all our issues surrounding the lighting of our facilities. Once we start placing bulbs in the light poles that are still standing, some will work, and some won’t,” White said. In situations where bulbs do not work, an electrician will have to be called for repairs.
In addition to the multitude of projects and maintenance, the department is responsible for maintaining and cleaning Virgin Islands beaches.
“When there are mandates placed on departments by legislation, there also needs to be made sure that resources are given to that department to carry out the mandate,” White said. Though the beaches fall under the department’s responsibility, he said, the original legislation never gave the department funding, equipment or manpower.
White said the department took it upon itself to research “beach machines,” which sift the sand and collect trash such as plastics and cigarette butts and plans to purchase one for each district. He added that even sargassum would be picked up via the new machines.
“There is still a lot of work to be done, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” White said.