Gov. John deJongh Jr. toured the Frederiksted waterfront with a phalanx of commissioners Thursday, listening as they told him what each of their departments is doing to prepare. Afterwards, the commissioners of Tourism, Housing Parks and Recreation, Public Works, the Police Department and others spoke briefly at a press conference about their department's particular plans.
"Today we will be walking with the governor and pointing out areas we know we need to address," said Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty.
Surrounded at a short distance by television and print media, DeJongh strolled down the walkway in front of Fort Frederik, over the small wooden bridge and onto the rocks leading to Frederiksted Beach, Housing Parks and Recreation Commissioner St. Claire Williams on one side, Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty on the other, administrators, aides and commissioners all around.
"Some sort of wooden walkway extending from the fort to the beach would be helpful here," deJongh said to Williams, who agreed. Williams said Frederiksted Beach would be getting a thorough cleaning, and its bandstand a refurbishing.
"With such a quality beach right here, imagine some nice, good quality beach chaises and umbrellas here," deJongh said to either Williams or Nicholson-Doty while walking. "There's an entrepreneurial opportunity for someone."
As the tour wound around back toward the pier, Williams pointed out caulking and other work that had been done on the two-year old tin-roofed vendor's stalls.
"We were having problems with pigeons, but I think we've got that taken care of now," Williams said.
Once back at the pier, Nicholson-Doty said Tourism has been working to promote St. Croix, in part with a new nationwide ad campaign, marketing St. Croix as "your port of solace."
Cruise ships are expressing more and more interest too, she said.
"We've got 51 next year," she said. "And as of now there are 38 going into 2010."
She and others are working to increase that number.
"Up to this minute we are getting more St. Croix cruise ship requests and we will be updating the list of arrivals," she said.
The first ships coming in November and December are smaller vessels, she said.
"We are counting down 56 days to our first port of call in Frederiksted," she said. "It's a smaller ship, but a very high demographic. Then, January 5, a Royal Caribbean ship arrives with more than 2,000 passengers." (See: "Cruise Ships Calling on St. Croix Will Bring Mixed Bag of Passengers").
Williams elaborated on renovations under way now, saying the pier's restrooms were recently redone and additional restrooms were under construction in the Midre Cummings "Triangle" Park across from Fort Frederik.
"The restrooms and other improvements are not only for cruise ships but the entire community," Williams said. "During the last Crucian Christmas Festival, that was indicated as a need. And we will be ready with it in time for this upcoming festival."
Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls said his department would be playing a supporting role for all the other departments, working on patching and painting roads, brush clearing, roadside cleanup and more.
Police Commissioner James McCall spoke about security.
"There will be a contingent of uniformed and plain-clothed police in town meeting the ships," he said. "So there will be a strong, but not overwhelming police presence in town."
The Port Authority has inspected the pier and replaced massive rubber bumpers "so the cruise ships don't risk getting scratched or dented," Port Authority Executive Director Kenn Hobson said. Before the biggest ships come in January, a pile of dredging material needs to be removed, to create enough clearance.
Kenrick Robertson, commissioner of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, urged businesses and entrepreneurs who want to sell to the cruise ship passengers to prepare now.
"Renew your license as quickly as possible so you can be ready when the ships come in," he said. Those interested can call his office at 773-2226.
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