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Monday, August 8, 2022
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KEEP OVERLOOKS UNOBSTRUCTED

Every time we pass the construction site for the new scenic overlook on Valdemar A. Hill – a/k/a Skyline – Drive, we feel a stab of anticipation at what's to come.
If government officials make good on their word, that unattractive, makeshift pullover above Charlotte Amalie and the harbor will be transformed by next spring into a spacious, landscaped overlook, complete with park benches.
But one aspect of the project nags at us: the plan to put the same vendors back where they were. We hope the powers-that-be – particularly tourism and parks officials – will reconsider that part of the plan.
As we have said repeatedly, the sprawl of vendors' tables at places like Drake's Seat and the Skyline overlook give St. Thomas a honky-tonk appearance that we should be trying to shed.
Unfortunately, the Vendors Plaza downtown falls into the same category, though it still is an improvement over the situation of several years ago where vendors were scattered all over the sidewalks of Charlotte Amalie.
We do not believe our scenic overlooks are the appropriate place for vendors to sell their wares. We appreciate their enterprise, and we believe it is important to encourage these small business people to succeed, but there are better ways – and better places – to make this happen.
However, if there is a consensus that we do want vendors to sell their wares at our scenic overlooks, we at least need to design and set up an attractive place for them to do this in each scenic spot, and limit the number of people who can sell there.
Clearly, this is an important subject for calm, respectful community dialogue, without the finger-pointing and name-calling that have characterized similar discussions in the past.
Tourism is our most important product. We need to put our visitors' needs first – and that may mean putting some of our most beautiful vistas off-limits for commercial activities that detract from rather than enhance the visitors' experience.

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Every time we pass the construction site for the new scenic overlook on Valdemar A. Hill - a/k/a Skyline - Drive, we feel a stab of anticipation at what's to come.
If government officials make good on their word, that unattractive, makeshift pullover above Charlotte Amalie and the harbor will be transformed by next spring into a spacious, landscaped overlook, complete with park benches.
But one aspect of the project nags at us: the plan to put the same vendors back where they were. We hope the powers-that-be - particularly tourism and parks officials - will reconsider that part of the plan.
As we have said repeatedly, the sprawl of vendors' tables at places like Drake's Seat and the Skyline overlook give St. Thomas a honky-tonk appearance that we should be trying to shed.
Unfortunately, the Vendors Plaza downtown falls into the same category, though it still is an improvement over the situation of several years ago where vendors were scattered all over the sidewalks of Charlotte Amalie.
We do not believe our scenic overlooks are the appropriate place for vendors to sell their wares. We appreciate their enterprise, and we believe it is important to encourage these small business people to succeed, but there are better ways - and better places - to make this happen.
However, if there is a consensus that we do want vendors to sell their wares at our scenic overlooks, we at least need to design and set up an attractive place for them to do this in each scenic spot, and limit the number of people who can sell there.
Clearly, this is an important subject for calm, respectful community dialogue, without the finger-pointing and name-calling that have characterized similar discussions in the past.
Tourism is our most important product. We need to put our visitors' needs first - and that may mean putting some of our most beautiful vistas off-limits for commercial activities that detract from rather than enhance the visitors' experience.