The Virgin Islands Trail Alliance (VITAL) corporation was created to identify, plan, develop, build, and manage a system of interconnecting multi-use pathways, green spaces, walking paths, and biking trails across the island of St. Croix.
In the territory, safe walking and biking trails do exist, but they are limited, inconvenient, disconnected. Furthermore, the roads and traffic patterns do not support a pedestrian friendly environment. Building multi-use pathways will create new opportunities and add unique value to the territory by enhancing its infrastructure and connecting people to services, daily living, and recreation.
VITAL recognizes that the community is the largest stakeholder, and therefore community engagement is key to the success of any multi-use pathway project. In order to inform our planning and advocacy efforts, VITAL, in collaboration with the walkability team on St. Croix, the Department of Public Works (DPW), the Urban and Community Forestry Program, the Cruzan Pathways Inc. and many other organizations, sought feedback from members of the community on where they wanted to see new walkways and bike paths.
In order to quickly collect data from a large sample of locals, a booth was set up at the Agricultural Fair, which ran from February 16-18, 2019. The Agricultural Fair is known to attract large numbers of fair-goers, with an estimated 15,000 people of varying ages over the three-day event.
The location of the booth on the fairgrounds was set to the side; while it did not receive the direct entrance traffic, the flow of people was constant. Visitors were greeted by volunteers and presented with the VITAL Concept Map (below) with pathway segments marked in color. These marked pathway segments represent the location of many local roads that people are familiar with.
The Fair is an active environment with many sights and sounds to explore. In order to maintain fair-goers’ attention, we decided to ask each visitor only one, simple question:
Where would you like to walk or bike if there was a safe sidewalk or multi-use pathway?
Visitors were encouraged to choose the thumbtack that represented their age group and place it at a location on the map where they would like to walk or bike if it was safe.
The booth was monitored by project partners. They assisted people to find locations if they asked, but otherwise did not influence where the participants placed their pin on the map.
In addition, visitors had the option to sign a petition in support of the 14-mile South Shore Multi-use Pathway, an already-approved pedestrian project that has been slow to develop. Over 200 signatures were collected! The petition was hand-delivered in a letter to the Commissioner of Public Works, Nelson Petty, after the fair.
By the end of the third day, the VITAL Concept Map was full of colorful pins. Two hundred and seventy-five visitors participated over the three-day event. Most of them were in the 20-65 age range. The majority of the pins were clustered around existing roads and popular areas, while 45 pins were placed at miscellaneous hillsides and coastlines.
Feedback from the community was used to update VITAL’s Concept Map with 21 new miles of bike and pedestrian-friendly pathways. The orange paths below represent the pathway segments that are now included in the design work being done on DPW road projects since the fair.
These four new pathways were added to the Concept Map:
- Frederiksted Waterfront – Ham’s Bluff to Frederiksted
- Northside Road – Villa Lorraine intersection to Bassine Triangle in Christiansted
- Centerline Road – Frederiksted to Sunny Isles Shopping Center
- Gallows Bay – a Circle pathway on the outer limits of Gallows Bay
We shared the findings of the Walkability Map Survey with local decision-makers. They were able to see the importance of these new pathways to the people of St. Croix and took new steps to improve walkability on the island.
- Nelson Petty (Commissioner of DPW) added multi-use pathways to four major road projects Reviewed 14-Mile South Shore Pathway Will support educating staff and community leaders to prepare for pathway designs
- Positive Nelson (Commissioner of Agriculture) – Promoting the National Livable Communities Program with the Governor & First Lady Promoting new 50 acre public park & conservation site
- Stacey Plaskett (VI Delegate to Congress) has begun work to locate funding for pathway and greenspace projects
- AARP of the Virgin Islands – Promoting Livable Communities in the Territory A community partner of the VITAL projects
We were very encouraged by the enthusiasm we encountered while collecting data at the Agricultural Fair. The following comments were shared with us by booth monitors.
I was impressed with the response we got from passers-by. The majority were intrigued by the idea of a bike path. Pretty much everybody who stopped agreed that there needs to be more availability of walking paths, sidewalks, and places to ride bikes. When asked to place a pin, I was impressed that people wanted to explore new areas.
The highlight of my time there was a visit from Sen. Myron Jackson who says he is planning a hearing in March and wanted to have VITAL representation.
My biggest take away from the Ag Fair presentation for VITAL was connecting with key people who have an interest in what we’re doing… both locals and tourists alike who support VITAL’s mission.
VITAL would like to thank the following collaborators for their efforts in this project:
- The USVI Department of Public Works
- The Walkability Institute
- Cruzan Pathways Inc.
- Urban and Community Forestry Program
- Survey participants who gave their time and input