Playground Renovation Nearly Complete — Ball Field Renovations Could Begin in March

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Housing, Parks and Recreation workers install new playground equipment at the V.I. National Park ball field earlier this month. The new structure should be open to the island’s children this week.

The island’s children will soon have a brand new playground to slide, swing and have fun on when the V.I. National Park playground reopens in the next week or so.

The structure was completely redone, with a brand new playground being installed by Housing, Parks and Recreation.

HPR invested approximately $40,000 in equipment for the playground, which is located on land leased to HPR by the VINP for recreation.

“The playground had reached the end of its useful life,” said VINP Superintendent Mark Hardgrove. “Parents have been telling me concerns they had for the safety of their kids, and how important this area is to them.”

The ball field renovation, which will involve draining and grading the field, bringing in new topsoil and hydroseeding the entire area, was initiated by the St. John Community Foundation.

SJCF Executive Director Paul Devine, who is involved in youth recreation activities which take place at the ball field, including flag football, saw a need to spruce up the field, which has not been maintained since the 1970s and had deteriorated to an incredibly rocky playing surface, he explained.

“I started the ball rolling by contacting HPR,” said Devine. “On several occasions we had to cancel our sports programs, because when it rains it’s too slick to play. We felt it’d be a great idea to get volunteers together and decide on a plan.”

The plan was presented to HPR, which gave its full support along with VINP Superintendent Hardgrove. The St. John community viewed the plan at a November 2009 public meeting.

The project has been dubbed the National Park Community Partnership Project, representing the partnership between the VINP, HPR and SJCF.

Devine and his volunteers, which include Department of Public Works St. John Deputy Director Ira Wade, Wharton Smith, Jose Penn and Majestic Construction, are waiting for HPR to complete their portion of the project before they can move forward.

“They are going to replace the entire perimeter fence with black plastic coated chain link and install new field lighting,” said Devine. “They were supposed to start in January, but they got delayed.”

Devine now estimates work will begin in March, and the entire renovation process should take approximately three months. The field will likely be playable by June, allowing extra time for the grass to grow.

The ball field and playground renovation projects are expected to cost approximately $340,000 – $260,000 of which will come from HPR, and approximately $80,000 worth of volunteer time.

The installation of the lights on the field will open up a whole new world of opportunities for the St. John community, Devine explained.

“It’s not only for sports; it’s for the community,” he said. “Once the lights are up, you can consider doing community activities at night, under the coolness of the evening. I think there will be lots of opportunities to do events there.”

Hardgrove echoed Devine’s sentiments.

“I think it really enhances the community’s opportunities to get their kids outdoors for great family time,” the VINP superintendent said.