Legislature approves bill for cultural theme park on St. Croix
Published: August 22, 2012
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ST. THOMAS - Almost a decade after the V.I. government first floated the idea for a theme park on St. Croix, legislators on Tuesday passed a bill that could make the park into a reality.
All 14 of the senators present for the vote Tuesday evening supported the bill calling for the V.I. Property and Procurement Department, the V.I. Economic Development Authority and the V.I. Tourism Department to solicit proposals for the park within six months of the legislation being enacted. Sen. Craig Barshinger was absent from all of Tuesday's legislative session and is not expected to attend today because of a previous family commitment, according to a letter Senate President Ronald Russell read into the record Tuesday morning.
The legislation would seek proposals for the development and construction of a theme park to be called the St. Croix Cultural, Historical and Ecological Adventure Park. The project may include "opportunities for private-public partnership," potentially including the issuance of private activity bonds through the V.I. Public Finance Authority.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Nereida Rivera-O'Reilly, called on all of her colleagues to support the park to send a strong message of unity to developers who may be interested.
"The message sent will be the Virgin Islands stands together in promoting the island of St. Croix and the residents of that island," she said.
Senate President Ronald Russell emphasized the potential for the theme park project, and a separate bill related to international banking operations, to help revive the territory's lagging economy.
"These projects stimulate the economy with outside capital and outside investment, and they deal with economic crisis of the territory in a pretty comprehensive way," he said.
The idea to explore developing the theme park dates back to the early 2000s, according to Rivera-O'Reilly. The V.I. Port Authority had a feasibility study done on the idea in 2003 but did not pursue the idea further, she said.
Rivera-O'Reilly said she came across the study in 2010 and met with the stateside company that conducted it. She said she passed along the information to the executive branch through a special assistant to the governor.
When HOVENSA announced in January that it would be ceasing refining operations, Rivera-O'Reilly said she thought of the theme park idea as a possibility for restarting the St. Croix economy.
Rivera-O'Reilly has previously said it would take $100,000 to update and revise the study, which is no longer current. The bill passed Tuesday includes no funding stream.
Other bills approved Tuesday include:
- An appropriation of $150,000 from the Fish and Game Fund to the Department of Planning and Natural Resources to develop a strategy to control the populations of lionfish and other invasive aquatic species.
- A requirement that the V.I. Bureau of Technology create an online searchable database of budget data for all governmental departments and agencies
- An exemption to the noise pollution control law for the St. Croix Festival and other local holiday activities and cultural festivities.
- A bill that would allow the V.I. Motor Vehicles Bureau to issue identification cards to disabled persons to be used as adequate documentation of disability in lieu of a physician's determination of disability.
- A bill that would require a government-wide review of voice, data and Internet contracts.
- A bill that would regulate - and provide tax incentives to - international banking centers with operations in the territory.
- An increase on the cap on workers' compensation claims for police officers, firefighters and other public safety employees from $250,000 to $750,000.
- Contact reporter Lou Mattei at 714-9124 or email email@example.com.