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St. Thomas Balances New Retail Ventures and Historical Preservation

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The style outlet , Vilanova , Barcelona – November 2016 : adidas store

ST. THOMAS — As the lush landscapes of St. Thomas buzzed with the promise of fresh commercial ventures, a major consideration emerged in the face of development: How can the island retain its rich history? The recent meeting of the St. Thomas Committee of the Historical Preservation Commission (HPC) showcased this very dilemma, revealing the tightrope walk between welcoming international brands like Adidas and ensuring historical sites remain untainted.

A beacon of this progressive commercial direction was the much-anticipated approval of the new Adidas store. Slated to open its doors on Dronningens Gade 24, the store’s permit – referenced as HPC-30-2023 – garnered significant attention. The committee didn’t just approve the Adidas establishment but also its visual representation, permitting a backlit signage. Still, a note of vigilance was sounded by Mr. Rodriguez, emphasizing that any promotional displays, particularly on windows and shutters, would require the HPC’s endorsement, especially if security firms were involved.

However, it was application HPC-7-2023 that stole the spotlight. The proposal to modify structures at Curacao Gade 9 & 10, potentially to house a 40-vehicle parking garage, sparked intense debate. David Knight, a devoted committee member, championed the cause of historical preservation. Expressing his concern, he stated, “We cannot erase our past for convenience.” Several colleagues echoed Mr. Knight’s sentiment, dubbing the notion of transforming a heritage site into a parking facility as “ill-conceived.” Yet, a few saw the possibility of a middle ground — a temporary structure that could protect and even showcase historical elements. Ultimately, a consensus remained elusive, and the decision was postponed for a later date.

In the midst of these highlighted discussions, the committee’s dedication towards rehabilitating structures impacted by the devastating 2017 hurricanes was evident. They collectively supported applications such as HPC-33-2023, focusing on restoring a hurricane-stricken home. Another commendable decision revolved around HPC-31-2023, aimed at rejuvenating a structure in Kongensgade owned by Bernice Peterson Jackson. Both these decisions reflect the unwavering commitment of the VI State Historical Preservation Office (VISPHO) in safeguarding the island’s legacy.

An intriguing episode transpired when Brent Pilton from the renowned Pink Palm Hotel sought approval for a distinctive sign. Though the committee was initially skeptical about its design and placement, a constructive discussion paved the way for a mutually agreeable solution.

A unanimous nod of approval was given to the rehabilitation efforts of the Emmaus Moravian Church and Manse. Samuel Rhymer, representing the Moravian Church, painted a vivid picture of the project, capturing the committee’s imagination and securing their wholehearted endorsement.

Moreover, the fate of a waning mahogany tree, a symbol of Virgin Islands’ heritage located in Educators Park, ignited passionate discussions. After weighing the pros and cons, the decision tilted in favor of retaining the tree, reaffirming the committee’s dedication to conserving natural landmarks.

Marking an end to this productive session, the HPC members circled August 24 on their calendars for their next congregation. Their collective mission? Striking a balance between St. Thomas’ promising future and its invaluable past.

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USVI Community Pulse

Over 100 Volunteers Rally for Vessup Beach Cleanup, Collecting 80 Bags of Trash

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On a sunny Saturday, more than 100 community members, including 78 enthusiastic students, gathered at Vessup Beach in Estate Nazareth, motivated by a common goal: to rid the beach of litter. This environmental initiative, spearheaded by YES! Waste Management, marked a significant achievement as volunteers managed to remove 80 bags full of garbage from the shores of St. Thomas.

The variety of trash collected was vast, ranging from abandoned fishing lines and plastic jugs to fast-food packaging, cans, bottles, and even a partially submerged dinghy. This extensive haul underscores the critical need for diligent waste management practices, particularly in the US Virgin Islands’ delicate coastal regions.

The cleanup received generous support from local businesses, enhancing the experience for those involved. West Indies Windsurfing offered complimentary kayaks and paddleboards for participants to enjoy Muller Bay, while Leatherback Brewing Company, a brewery based in St. Croix, provided refreshments for the adult volunteers as a token of appreciation for their efforts.

MacKenzie Stoller, co-owner of YES! Waste Management, expressed gratitude for the community’s robust turnout and spirit. “The incredible turnout and spirit of cooperation at this beach cleanup event were truly heartening. It’s remarkable to witness our community, especially the youth, uniting for such a vital cause,” Stoller remarked.

YES! Waste Management is extending an invitation to the local business sector to support forthcoming cleanups and environmental campaigns. This initiative is part of a broader effort to foster sustainable waste management and conservation ethos within the community, ensuring the preservation of the territory’s natural beauty for generations to come.

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USVI Community Pulse

Renewal of Forest Inventory Activities Across St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John by USDA

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service has announced the forthcoming resumption of the Forest Inventory and Analysis Program (FIA) across St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John. This initiative marks a continuation of a comprehensive federal effort initiated in 1930, aimed at compiling, analyzing, and disseminating data on the condition and trends of America’s forestlands. The project, which began anew in 2020, encountered delays due to the pandemic but is now set to proceed under the guidance of Belinda Ferro, an esteemed ecologist with the Southern Research Station’s FIA program.

Collaborating closely with the International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF), a team of skilled biological scientists will undertake the inventory. This essential work will gather critical data to support the assessment of ecosystem management sustainability, wildlife habitat evaluation, and forest planning and decision-making processes.

The forthcoming inventory will delve into various aspects of the forest, including its size, location, ownership, and the dynamics of change over time. It will also examine tree growth, as well as recent mortality or removal of forest vegetation. This iteration marks the Virgin Islands’ fourth comprehensive inventory, initiating a transition to annual remeasurements to more accurately monitor fluctuations in forest cover, land use, biodiversity, and the impact and recovery from hurricane damage, according to FIA statements.

Adopting an annual cycle for remeasurements enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of capturing the intricate dynamics of forest ecosystems. Ferro emphasized the initiative’s aim to enlighten residents, policymakers, and governmental bodies about the distinctiveness of island ecosystems and their recent significant ecological shifts. The forthcoming reports will offer insights into current conditions, trends, and potential future scenarios if current trends persist. This information will empower resource managers to make well-informed decisions, taking into account the latest data on forest health, hurricane damage, developmental impact, and the influence of climate change and invasive species.

Upon completion of the forest surveys, the gathered data will undergo analysis and be presented in a comprehensive report published every five years by the Southern Research Station. Additionally, the findings will be accessible for download from the Forest Inventory and Analysis website, providing valuable resources for ongoing environmental management and conservation efforts.

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USVI Community Pulse

Virgin Islands’ Vocal Prodigy Shines at Carnegie Hall

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Charlotte Amalie High School’s senior tenor, Qian Harrigan-Thomas, recently delivered an unforgettable performance at the iconic Carnegie Hall in New York City, marking a significant milestone in his burgeoning musical career. Harrigan-Thomas participated in the Honors Performance Series, an esteemed event that brings together young musicians from across the globe to showcase their talents on an internationally recognized stage.

This event draws participants from every corner of the United States, including the Virgin Islands, who must navigate a highly competitive selection process to earn the opportunity to perform in world-class venues like Carnegie Hall.

Harrigan-Thomas’s path to this prestigious platform was paved by his outstanding achievement at the WorldStrides Heritage Festival in Atlanta, where he earned the Maestro Award. This accolade, a reflection of his extraordinary talent and dedication, was awarded for his performance with the Charlotte Amalie High School Band. His audition for the Honors Performance Series Selection Board was met with acclaim, noting his “warm, rich sound and commendable Italian diction,” elements that played a pivotal role in his selection for this notable performance.

Participation in the Honors Concert Choir at Carnegie Hall offered Harrigan-Thomas not only the chance to perform but also an enriching experience of rehearsals, cultural interactions, and sightseeing, leading to a performance that he describes as “life-changing.”

Looking ahead, Harrigan-Thomas has already been accepted into a university and is currently auditioning for several others, poised for the next chapter in his promising musical journey.

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