A Child's Gateway to Virgin Islands National Park
The playground outside of the Virgin Islands National Park headquarters is the ideal location for integrating natural landscapes, cultural history, trail guides, community meeting areas, and play structures with multiple opportunities for learning because of its location and established value/use as a community meeting spot.
After being hit by two category five hurricanes, the playground and ballfield next to the Virgin Islands National Park headquarters suffered substantial damage. Several play structures and the fencing surrounding the playground are in disrepair. In order to restore the area and provide a connection for children to the Park, a revitalized vision for the playground and adjacent ballfield is warranted.
In Fall of 2018 at the request of the VI National Park Service, the Friends launched an initial fundraiser to repair the playground. More than $6,000 was raised towards the project in less than 24 hours! From that effort, community interest and support has continued to be strong. As of August 2019 more than $30,000 has been raised by dozens of individuals!
Designing a "Ridgetop to Reef" Playscape
The playground has been traditionally used heavily by local families, afterschool programs, summer camp programs, as well as school groups, and park visitors. Currently, it is the only public playground on the island. Additionally, the playground and its surrounding grounds (Visitors Center, pavilion, ballfield and adjacent land) provide numerous community groups with a meeting area. Most significantly, VINP’s Interpretative Rangers currently use the locale as a staging/briefing area for the Reef Bay and L’Esperance guided hikes. With improved design, this area would be ideal for additional VINP interpretative activities.
By reimagining the playground and the use of its adjacent lands as a ‘Ridgetop to Reef’ playscape will increase environmental education opportunities by providing space for park interpreters to meet groups and interpretive signs that teach children about their Virgin Islands National Park.
Steps away from the base of the Lind Point Trail and the National Park pier, the playground is uniquely positioned to be a launching area to the Park’s beaches, peaks, and reefs. In this way the playground and its adjacent lands are the true gateway into Virgin Islands National Park, in particular for youth. As such, the opportunity to teach children about the ecological and cultural significance of the park starts in the playground!
Designing the playscape with these goals in mind means using play elements that integrate the Taino, Danish settlements, local flora and fauna, and play structures that mimic the ecosystems of St. John. For example, the ‘Ridgetop to Reef’ playscape includes a shaded gathering area, grass bermed amphitheater-like seating area, picnic tables, a native plant garden with interpretative signage, an enclosed play area for 0-4 years old, and multiple sensory play areas for ages 5-9 years and 10-12 years old with additional interpretative signage.
The Ridgetop to Reef Playscape seeks to:
- Connect children to the natural and cultural resources of Virgin Islands Park
- Increase play affordances for a variety of ages
- Offer VINP a staging locale for interpretative talks and activities
- Create a community gathering place for downtown Cruz Bay
- Provide a gateway to the National Park for children and their families
Special thanks to Barefoot Architects and Carlson Construction for donating their time and talents to this project!
Building in Phases
May 2019 - Remove broken fencing
June 2019 - 1st community meeting
July 2019 - Submit playground plans to VINP
August 2019 - Submit ballfield plans to VINP
August 2019 - 2nd Community Meeting
October 2019 Break ground
June 2020 - 3rd Community Meeting
July 2020 - Complete