“Grasshopper” Pickering Supports Simple Venue for Sports, Music – Grass of Course

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Keeping it simple.

Philip “Grasshopper” Pickering sees a public venue between the Enighed Pond waterfront and the Cruz Bay short-term parking lot at the tennis courts as a simple grass field.

No need for an amphitheater which might focus sound to the annoyance of any neighbors, opined Pickering, an international Reggae performer.

A simple well-maintained field of grass surrounded by a walkway which could contain temporary structures for concessions at events and performances would be enough, the St. Johnian artist explained.

It may not be big enough for the cricket pitch long-sought by New Zealand-St. John “snow-bird” Frank Langley, founder of the St. John Arts Festival — another potential user, but the grass field also could be surrounded by the island’s first sports track.

Dual Function as School Sports Field
Pickering and other proponents of the fledgling plan to provide a public venue for performances, events and gatherings — including the ultimate proposal for a potential new enlarged St. John Festival site with neighboring parking — are trying to find common ground, and Grasshopper thinks the dual function of a much-needed public performance venue as a sports field could be it.

Pickering agrees such a field also could help ease the impact of the Department of Education’s closure of the Guy H. Benjamin School in Coral Bay in the forced consolidation of the island’s public schools at the Julius E. Sprauve School in the heart of Cruz Bay — which has the necessary classroom capacity but limited playground and sports facilities.

With little realistic hope for the promised new center-island St. John educational complex in the foreseeable future, a well-maintained grass field could double as a sports facility for the island’s only public school — like the one at the island’s private school “up country.”

Wells Ball Field Over-Used
Community efforts have tried to maintain the Winston Wells Ball field — which doubles as the Sprauve school playground — in playing condition, but it is a never-ending battle against the elements and use.

A community effort brought the island’s Pine Peace Basketball court back to life in walking distance of JESS; the public Cruz Bay tennis courts are serving a burgeoning St. John youth tennis talent pool, and a playing field across the road at Enighed Pond could provide the perfect complement to athletic facilities for the island’s school children.

Public utilities are available at the site for the possible addition of rest room facilities, and irrigation for the field could come from the V.I. Waste Management Agency’s wastewater treatment plant.

VIPA Plans Are for Long-Term
Pickering is aware that the V.I. Port Authority may have long-term economic interests in developing the parcel as a container trans-shipping storage facility

As it stands, St. Johnian VIPA Chairman Robert O’Connor Jr. acknowledged, the Enighed Pond site is an unstable plane of dredged material which will take years to dry out and stabilize — if it ever will.

There already is concern about what may be in or under the dredge spoils potentially tainted by industrial waste dumped in that area when the pond and its shoreline were used as a community commercial refuse site — and even whether the site should be better sealed or covered than it has been.

In the meantime, there is federal money available for construction of a community sports field project, according to St. John Community Foundation’s Celia Kalousek.

All that is needed is a site for a project.