The Senate Committee on Rules and Judiciary advanced legislation at its Thursday hearing that, if signed into law, would bring the territory’s beaches closer to compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
The legislation would require at least two beaches in each USVI district to have reasonable access to the water and through the sand for those with mobility challenges. At a prior committee hearing, it was said AccessMats were likely to be used and had already been procured.
Territorial Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator for the Government of the Virgin Islands Julien Henley Sr. said that before any construction can begin on the qualified beaches, a thorough assessment must be conducted to ensure those with mobility impairments have suitable parking and amenities.
“It is every citizen’s right to have access to our beautiful beaches in these U.S. Virgin Islands. What exactly does the term ‘access’ entail?” Henley said. “To be certain, access begins upon one’s arrival and ensures equal opportunity to all commodities open to the public.”
Parking, Henley said, must have clear signage for designated parking spaces and the ground must be level, firm and within reasonable proximity to the beach.
A walk-through of the proposed beaches was done by Henley, who said many prime beaches in St. Thomas weren’t ideal.
“Both Magens Bay and Smith Bay beaches have accessible restrooms, however, their parking spaces are on sand or gravel, making traversing extremely difficult,” Henley said. “Parking is also an issue at Coki Point Beach but is likewise being addressed. And while Coki Point has an accessible restroom and route to the water, a landing at the end of the route is needed to allow persons to transfer into the accessible device that will be used to enter the water.”
The beaches proposed for St. John have proper parking, Henley said, and short of an installation of an AccessMat, are already ADA compliant.
On St. Croix, Henley said, the topography makes it difficult to find a suitable beach, but Cramer’s Park was “revealed to be a top candidate for this accessibility endeavor.” An accessible restroom, parking and routes would need to be established.
In addition to bill 33-0220, the committee moved forward eight other pieces of legislation:
– Bill 33-0004, which seeks to require 1 percent of total capital improvement project costs to be used toward works of art that will adorn government buildings.
– Bill 33-0449, which seeks to extend the eligibility for scholarships to students in the Dual Credit Program.
– Bill 33-0355, which aims to provide an income tax deduction to small businesses that employ individuals with disabilities.
– Bill 33-0432, which is meant to honor Orville Edward Kean for his contributions to the University of the Virgin Islands by renaming the university’s fitness center after him.
– Bill 33-0431, which is meant to honor Rashawn Ross for his musical achievements.
– Bill 33-0440, which is a resolution commemorating the Charlotte Amalie High School centennial.
– Bill 33-0438, which allocates $75,000 from the Centennial Special Fund to the Department of Education for Charlotte Amalie High School’s centennial activities.
– Bill 33-0425, which seeks to rename South Side Road on St. John, “The Rudolph A. ‘Pimpy’ Thomas Jr. Road.”
The following nominees were also advanced to the full body:
– Marion Wilson, nominee for the Virgin Islands Board of Nurse Licensure Licensed Practical Nurse for the St. Croix District
– Tanicia Penn, nominee for the Virgin Islands Board of Nurse Licensure Registered Nurse with Varied Specialization
– Arnelle Lewis-Comissiong, nominee for the Virgin Islands Board of Nurse Licensure Registered Nurse with Varied Specialization
– Juliette Petty, nominee for the Virgin Islands Board of Nurse Licensure Voting Lay Person, for the St. Thomas-St. John District
– E. Aracelis Francis, Ph.D., nominee for the Virgin Islands Board of Social Work Licensure for the St. Thomas-St. John District
– Juliette Millin, nominee for the Virgin Islands Board of Social Work Licensure for the St. Thomas-St. John District
– Andre’ Dorsey, nominee for the Government Employees’ Retirement System Board of Trustees for the St. Thomas-St. John District
Sens. Janelle Sarauw, Novelle Francis Jr., Kenneth Gittens, Myron Jackson, Javan James Sr. and Steven Payne Sr. were present for the hearing. Sen. Alicia Barnes was absent.