Road Town needs planning, work

We are pleased that the new government appears to be revisiting the 2007 Road Town Improvement Project, a comprehensive report whose recommendations could greatly improve the territory’s capital.

 

Last week, Communications and Works Minister Mark Vanterpool unveiled plans to move the vendors who currently operate under tents near the cruise ship pier to an expanded Crafts Alive Village. The initiative, which is in keeping with objectives outlined in the RTIP, also includes constructing a walkway between the village and the pier.

This project should significantly improve the appearance of Wickhams Cay I, much of which is shamefully neglected.

Mr. Vanterpool stressed that plans to refurbish the capital are urgent in large part because major cruise lines have been cutting back on visits here. While this trend is certainly alarming, we would add that the capital city of any territory as prosperous as the Virgin Islands should be an oasis for residents and tourists alike.

Unfortunately, progress toward that goal has come at a snail’s pace in recent years. Road Town has languished as taxpayers’ money has been poured into haphazard projects that seem motivated more by political interests than by any comprehensive strategy.

Even so, there have been some positive results. The Noel Lloyd Positive Action Movement Park is perhaps the most noticeable recent indicator of Road Town’s potential. Since its completion in 2007, the park has become a popular community gathering spot and a tourist attraction in its own right.

Now the rest of Road Town should be brought up to this standard. The RTIP plan, which is an excellent starting point, provides many other sound ideas:

• a waterfront walkway from the Queen Elizabeth II Park to Wickhams Cay II;

• a reliable public transportation system that would operate out of a transport hub in Road Town;

• garages or park-and-ride facilities at the edge of the capital that would allow drivers to leave their vehicles and walk or take a shuttle into the city centre;

• better management of historical sites;

• a vegetable and craft market; and

• extensive improvements to Main Street, to name a few.

Many of these measures would be expensive, but that is no reason not to start working toward them at whatever pace is financially feasible. Before action is taken, however, the public should get a chance to weigh in at community meetings.

Even with an agreed blueprint in place, steps will need to be taken to ensure that long-term plans are carried out effectively.

In its manifesto last year, the now-ruling National Democratic Party promised to institute a better management system for Road Town, including a management board that would work with residents and government to “provide a comprehensive development plan” for the capital.

Such a system is badly needed, and we hope it comes soon. To that we would add the need for a city manager with sufficient authority to properly carry out his or her duties. This position was created by the former NDP administration in 2005, but was later suspended under the Virgin Islands Party government. Even before the suspension, however, the city manager lacked the necessary to function meaningfully.The new government should revisit this situation and implement a management system designed to minimise the impact of politics and other potentially negative influences on planning decisions in the capital.

Road Town has much to offer, but its potential will be wasted unless it is developed in accordance with a comprehensive plan designed for the greater good.


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