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Saturday, May 28, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesNew Entrance Road Opens at Smith Bay Park

New Entrance Road Opens at Smith Bay Park

Magens Bay Authority officials on Saturday celebrated the opening of Smith Bay Park’s new driveway, which makes the nearly 22-acre natural area more accessible to the public while still protecting its plants, wildlife and shore.

“The philosophy is we are preserving the environment and the footprint,” Authority Board Chairman Robert Morón said.

The unveiling came close to six months after Apex Construction crews began work on the 500-foot-long asphalt driveway, which extends from the Smith Bay Road entrance to the fork where admittance fees are currently collected. Apex constructed a handicapped-accessible sidewalk along the road and incorporated drainage mechanisms, including concrete swale and curb and gutter, to help mitigate the negative environmental effects of storm water runoff.

Daniela Kauffman was Saturday’s first visitor to drive down the smooth surface, at the end of which the Authority’s General Manager, Hubert Brumant, happily collected her entrance fee.

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“I remember going through the holes and the hills and the puddles,” Kauffman said. “This is much better.”

The V.I. Government purchased the land for use as a park in early 2006, after many failed attempts by developers to put condominiums or hotels on the property. Magens Bay Authority took over the park’s management in 2007.

“Ever since it was given to us to manage, we’ve been improving it,” Authority Board member Aubrey Nelthropp said.

In 2010, the V.I. Government gave the Authority $1.3 million for park improvements, $263,892 of which paid for the new road. The rest of the money will go toward other projects, which include a gatehouse, a bathhouse, two sheds, a parking areas, a concession stand/restaurant, and a botanical garden with native plants.

Brumant and Morón said they expect the other projects to be completed in two years.

“This has to be one of the most effective boards I’ve sat on – they actually get things done,” St. Thomas-Water Island Administrator Barbara Petersen said. “It’s really awesome to be a part of this organization.”

As they toured the new road, Sen. Carlton Dowe and Sen. Louis Hill said they were pleased by the progress and excited for what is in store for the area.

Next on the list the Authority plans to build a ticket-taking gatehouse at the top of the driveway, along with a parking area that can accommodate 500 people, which is the park’s maximum number of visitors. Visitors will be able to drive down the road to drop off their picnic paraphernalia, but then they will have to drive back up, park their vehicles, and walk down to the beach, Morón said.

Handicapped visitors will still be able to park close to the beach under this system, but able-bodied park goers will not be permitted to park as close to the shore where their cars could tear up the ground, leak fuel, or disturb small animals.

Morón said all these measures are in place to preserve the park’s delicate plants and wild creatures, which include deer, nesting sea turtles, endangered tree boas, mongooses, and egrets.

While all of the preservation project’s supporters who came out Saturday remembered when the park entrance was a bumpy, rutted mess, only one of them, Mr. Nelthropp, recalled visiting the site as a young boy in the 1930s.

Back then the property was privately owned and gated, and it was used to raise goats, pigs, and cows. Nelthropp would visit the beach and swim, a tradition he continued with his own children. He said he was proud of his fellow native Virgin Islanders on the Authority board for keeping this resource in public hands.

“It’s the most beautiful natural beach on St. Thomas,” Nelthropp said. “Go out and see for yourself.”

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Magens Bay Authority officials on Saturday celebrated the opening of Smith Bay Park's new driveway, which makes the nearly 22-acre natural area more accessible to the public while still protecting its plants, wildlife and shore.

“The philosophy is we are preserving the environment and the footprint,” Authority Board Chairman Robert Morón said.

The unveiling came close to six months after Apex Construction crews began work on the 500-foot-long asphalt driveway, which extends from the Smith Bay Road entrance to the fork where admittance fees are currently collected. Apex constructed a handicapped-accessible sidewalk along the road and incorporated drainage mechanisms, including concrete swale and curb and gutter, to help mitigate the negative environmental effects of storm water runoff.

Daniela Kauffman was Saturday's first visitor to drive down the smooth surface, at the end of which the Authority's General Manager, Hubert Brumant, happily collected her entrance fee.

“I remember going through the holes and the hills and the puddles,” Kauffman said. “This is much better.”

The V.I. Government purchased the land for use as a park in early 2006, after many failed attempts by developers to put condominiums or hotels on the property. Magens Bay Authority took over the park's management in 2007.

“Ever since it was given to us to manage, we've been improving it,” Authority Board member Aubrey Nelthropp said.

In 2010, the V.I. Government gave the Authority $1.3 million for park improvements, $263,892 of which paid for the new road. The rest of the money will go toward other projects, which include a gatehouse, a bathhouse, two sheds, a parking areas, a concession stand/restaurant, and a botanical garden with native plants.

Brumant and Morón said they expect the other projects to be completed in two years.

“This has to be one of the most effective boards I've sat on – they actually get things done,” St. Thomas-Water Island Administrator Barbara Petersen said. “It's really awesome to be a part of this organization.”

As they toured the new road, Sen. Carlton Dowe and Sen. Louis Hill said they were pleased by the progress and excited for what is in store for the area.

Next on the list the Authority plans to build a ticket-taking gatehouse at the top of the driveway, along with a parking area that can accommodate 500 people, which is the park's maximum number of visitors. Visitors will be able to drive down the road to drop off their picnic paraphernalia, but then they will have to drive back up, park their vehicles, and walk down to the beach, Morón said.

Handicapped visitors will still be able to park close to the beach under this system, but able-bodied park goers will not be permitted to park as close to the shore where their cars could tear up the ground, leak fuel, or disturb small animals.

Morón said all these measures are in place to preserve the park's delicate plants and wild creatures, which include deer, nesting sea turtles, endangered tree boas, mongooses, and egrets.

While all of the preservation project's supporters who came out Saturday remembered when the park entrance was a bumpy, rutted mess, only one of them, Mr. Nelthropp, recalled visiting the site as a young boy in the 1930s.

Back then the property was privately owned and gated, and it was used to raise goats, pigs, and cows. Nelthropp would visit the beach and swim, a tradition he continued with his own children. He said he was proud of his fellow native Virgin Islanders on the Authority board for keeping this resource in public hands.

“It's the most beautiful natural beach on St. Thomas,” Nelthropp said. “Go out and see for yourself.”