Everyone has heard the adage, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I’d like to introduce another adage. The adage I want to suggest is, “It takes a community to create a community park.” In fact, I can back up this statement by describing a new community park on St. Croix that really was created by the community. This is Sundial Park, in the Tulipan Welcome neighborhood of Christiansted, on St. Croix, US Virgin Islands.
About two and a half years ago, a nice woman named Alma Winkfield came to see me in my office at the Department of Agriculture with an idea for a project. She lived in Tulipan Welcome, and the home owner’s association there wanted to clean up some communal property that was originally supposed to be a park when the neighborhood was developed. However, that 2-acre parcel never became a park and instead, it had turned into what was essentially a dumping site. The Spring Garden Homes Association, Inc., #3 wanted to submit a proposal to the Urban & Community Forestry Program for help in cleaning up this land. I worked with Mrs. Winkfield to prepare a proposal for funding to clean up the area and plant some trees. The USVI Urban & Community Forestry Council, Inc. evaluated the proposal and decided to grant the Association $16,000.00 in funds, which they would have to match 1:1 with the value of donations and/or volunteer time. I informed Mrs. Winkfield of the award, and she informed the Association.
Over the next few months, Mrs. Winkfield, her husband Rudy Winkfield, and neighborhood volunteers began removing debris from the property. As they removed one layer of debris, they began seeing deeper layers of debris; in some places the debris was eight feet deep! After they had filled 4 dumpsters with trash, it became clear that there was more “stuff” on the property than originally thought. As they worked, they discovered that they would need more funding, and the U&CF Council granted them another $4,000.00. This removal of debris ended up becoming Phase 1 of the project, because they couldn’t plant trees there until all the debris was removed. In the end, 40 dumpsters of debris were removed from the site before they were able to get down to the soil. By this time, all the funding had been expended. However, the cleanup also revealed some other issues that needed to be resolved.
Mrs. Winkfield and the Association then requested funding for Phase 2 of the project. During this phase, problems that became apparent at the end of Phase 1 were addressed. Homes that were below the property had often had flooding problems prior to the cleanup. It turned out that the property had two guts on it, one large one and one smaller, which had been filled with debris; homes downslope flooded because rainwater couldn’t flow through the clogged guts. Instead, it flowed over the land and into those homes.
In Phase 2, Mrs. and Mr. Winkfield took on the challenges of obtaining and planting trees, locating a water source for irrigation, burying the irrigation lines, building up the berms along the guts, installing a bridge over the large gut, obtaining and placing large boulders along the guts, creating park furniture from old pallets, making plans for a pavilion, building the pavilion, researching and then creating a “human sundial,” and on and on. Along the way, Mrs. Winkfied contacted local businesses and was successful in securing trees, irrigation lines, paint, lumber, nails, screws, roofing materials, downspouts, tiles, concrete, and all was either donated outright or provided at greatly reduced prices. She worked with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the University of the Virgin Islands Agricultural Experiment Station, the VI Department of Planning and Natural Resources, Water and Power Authority, the VI Department of Public Works, The Nature Conservancy, and many other government and private organizations, and made many new friends along the way.
Finally, after two and a half years of work, the newly created Sundial Park was revealed to the public at a dedication ceremony on May 6, 2016. This park was named for Mr. Gonzalez, known by all as “Sundial.” Mr. Sundial owned the land that Tulipan Welcome was built on; thus it seemed fitting to name the park after him. The family was pleased that this new community park honored their father and grandfather and several members of the family attended the ceremony.
Good morning and welcome everyone. Mr. Chichester introduced me as the Commissioner of Agriculture, which I am, but did you know that I am also the State Forester for the US Virgin Islands? As the State Forester I am in charge of all federally-funded forestry programs in the territory. We currently participate in three federal forestry programs, namely the Forest Stewardship Program, the Forest Legacy Program, and the Urban and Community Forestry Program. It is the Urban and Community Forestry Program that brings us here today.
Two and a half years ago, this site before you was an overgrown, littered area that was a detriment to the neighborhood. The site was always intended to be a park for the community, but it had never been developed as such. When the Spring Garden Homes Association, Inc. #3 approached our Urban and Community Forestry Coordinator, they were hoping for some funding to clear out the site and make it into a park. You will hear how difficult that project turned out to be from other speakers today. What I want you all to hear, and remember, is that this is a prime example of a community-based urban forest development that enhances the environment and improves the quality of life for all. We are proud to showcase here what a small amount of funding and some dedicated volunteers can do in our neighborhoods to make their communities better places.
Last December we were fortunate to host here on St. Croix, the winter 2015 meeting of the Southern Group of State Foresters, a group that includes State Foresters from 13 southern states, Puerto Rico, and the USVI. At the end of that meeting, we brought the State Foresters to this site to see the kind of Urban and Community Forestry projects we are promoting in the territory. They were terribly impressed with this project, and said so. It was our privilege then, as now, to show the public how an urban forestry project can make amazing changes in our communities, our islands, and our territory. Thank you and welcome to Sundial Park!!Carlos Robles
The idea that it takes a community to create a community park stems from the friendships and acquaintances that Mrs. Alma Winkfield made along her journey. Business people, government employees, volunteers, and neighbors came together to make this park a reality. It couldn’t have been done without the help and dedication of Mrs. Winkfield and her husband, but it also couldn’t have been done without all of the other people who contributed in ways large and small to realize the dream of a new community park.
This is what Urban and Community Forestry is all about.