The St. Croix Coastal Zone Management Committee unanimously approved a permit for the rehabilitation of the Salt River Visitor Center on Tuesday. CZM permit No. CZX-2-21(FC) is for the National Park Service to perform post-hurricane rehabilitation of the Salt River Visitor Center. The rehabilitation will occur within its existing foundation footprint, with repairs and alterations to the existing building to meet current code requirements.
During the initial decision meeting in May, the committee requested additional elements to the design to make it more “culturally appropriate.” “The design looks too boxy, and I do not see any cultural significance or Caribbean significance,” St. Croix CZM Chairwoman Masserae Sprauve-Webster said. “I’m just asking they put something on one or two of the buildings that makes it more appealing.”
The committee members unanimously agreed the National Park Service should meet with the Department of Planning and Natural Resources in the next 45 days to discuss how they can further comply with the suggestions.
As a follow-up to the meeting, Project Manager Aaron Bowman of liollio architecture, based out of Puerto Rico, provided a walkthrough of the design and changes made. Bowman said that in making their changes they reflected on the mission of the Salt River Visitor Center. “We recognize that all of the layers of history and this site where the contact station is located is very important.”
Bowman said that liollio worked closely with the park and its staff to determine their use of the facility to understand what their needs are and what elements could and should be rehabilitated. Once that was established, they created a series of goals, he said.
“Number one was to create a tool for interpretation and education for visitors. It is important to know that the visitors coming are not just tourists. There are a variety of visitors that we are trying to engage,” said Bowman.
The revised design includes an interpretative gallery area where discussions of historical events can be told. Bowman said that the beautiful views will help to engage the narrative the staff is trying to tell. Bowman also incorporated advice from the committee and added stonework to the courtyard’s wall; a set of arched gates at the entry; traditional shutters to doors and windows; and landscaping that contains a variety of plants to provide cultural elements, among others.
During the questions portion of the meeting, Sprauve-Webster asked the presenters why they selected the Puerto Rico architectural group rather than one from the U.S. Virgin Islands. Project Manager Doug Denk said, “This goes back to three years ago when we initiated the original study to investigate the overall extent of the hurricane damage.
“We used a process where we have pools of architect engineering firms on large contracts where the contract is already in place with the National Park Service, and we can reach out to these firms in an expedited manner to compete for services. We are somewhat limited in being able to reach out to any particular firm,” said Denk.
Sprauve-Webster then asked if National Park Service intends to hire a local contractor to conduct the rehabilitation of the visitor center.
Denk responded, “Anyone qualified that can meet the requirements should apply.”
The project construction is expected to begin by Sept. 30 and is funded under hurricane emergency funding through the National Park Service.