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Embracing the Guts

Stewardship, design, and equity for
St. Croix’s stormwater system
by Helen Lea, Changhao Li, and Kylee Pierce
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Guts are an essential part of St. Croix’s stormwater management system, but they face many challenges, from dumping to residential flooding. This project aims to tackle these issues through a stewardship approach, redesigning the areas adjacent to the guts in a way that allows Crucians to interact with them on a daily basis. These sustained, meaningful interactions will help break down the barriers between humans and nature, creating a more symbiotic relationship between the two and promoting a more resilient future for the island. 


This project focuses on five sites of intervention along the Golden Rock gut. Each site has multiple site-specific approaches that are tailored to the changing conditions along the gut and imagine different futures depending on the funding and capacity available to develop the surrounding parcels. The chapter concludes with a series of takeaways from this design process that could be applied to future gut interventions across St. Croix.

Guts Issues

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To tackle the many issues that guts face, this project proposes a plan grounded in stewardship. Stewardship promotes resilience for both human and natural systems and can help sustain the well being of the guts in the long term. Creating sustainable norms and promoting behaviors such as not dumping or staying clear of floodwater will also improve the health of the gut.6  Ultimately, stewardship is essential because it tackles issues at the source and reduces negative interactions with the guts.




Promote stewardship of the guts 


Create a symbiotic relationship between human and natural systems


Mitigate flooding along the guts


Increase public access to the guts for community space


To make this investigation of the guts more tangible, we chose to identify a gut to use as a pilot. By studying a specific gut, we can conduct analysis of specific conditions occurring in the guts today, and provide recommendations that can be applied to the island at large in the future.


Golden Rock Gut

Within Christiansted, we chose to base our pilot on the Golden Rock Gut. The Golden Rock estate stretches from mountainous terrain to the south to white sand beaches to the north. The estate is also located directly next to the Water and Power Authority (WAPA) Desalination Plant and Power Plant, which can be detrimental to the nearby homes, condos and apartments. Northside Road runs through the center of this gut as well, and houses a number of commercial uses. 

  1. St. Dunstan’s School

  2. Golden Rock Shopping Mall

  3. Caribbean Community Theatre

  4. District Court of the Virgin Islands

  5. WAPA Desalination Plant & Power Facility

  6. Sugar Beach

  7. Gas Stations

  8. Supermarket


1.    Indigenous Services Canada, “Indigenous Services
Canada - Annual Report to Parliament 2020” (Ottawa:
Indigenous Services Canada, November 3, 2020)

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Gut Life Cycle

Each gut goes through a life cycle from “ridge to reef” and must perform different functions as it passes through different areas of the island. This project identifies three phases that correspond with these functions: 

  1. The conveyance phase focuses on getting stormwater downstream and takes place in more developed areas that have higher risks of infrastructure and residential flooding.  

  2. The retention phase provides opportunities to hold water, slow it down, and encourage infiltration. This phase requires areas of open space that have the capacity to retain water without affecting nearby development.

  3. The release phase is the final section of the gut where it meets the sea and focuses on how to eliminate pollutants and remove trash and debris before stormwater is discharged into the sea and can affect marine ecosystems, including mangroves and coral reefs. 

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Design Approach

Because funding and capacity to develop a site will change over time, it is important to consider what different futures of the guts will look like, giving more flexibility in choosing which design interventions to implement. This project has selected five different sites of intervention, providing multiple approaches for each. 

The first approach is a set of Baseline Recommendations, which represent the starting point and the minimum considerations that should be taken into account when intervening in the design of a gut. 

The Retrofit Approach imagines what more could be done within the constraints of the existing building footprints. The Rebuild Approach then imagines what could be done if the site were to be completely redeveloped.

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Golden Rock Shopping Mall

The Golden Rock Shopping Mall is home to a supermarket, a gas station, a few small businesses, and multiple vacant storefronts. The gut is piped underneath the site and bends around the existing buildings, finally emerging above ground in a channel that leads it to Northside Road.

Baseline Recommendation

Assess water runoff that is not captured by the piped gut drainage.

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Retrofit Recommendation

Art installation that reveals “invisible infrastructure” of the piped gut.

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Rebuild Recommendation

Art installation that reveals “invisible infrastructure” of the piped gut.

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Retention Park

This section of the gut is entirely natural, and the large parcels of undeveloped land make it ideal for developing the Retention Park. This site is intended to slow the flow of water and retain stormwater in order to lessen the burden on downstream sections of the gut.

Baseline Recommendation

Enhance the existing park for surrounding residents and the community. 

Retrofit Recommendation

Provide public space amenities, like benches, tennis courts, an education center, and walking paths.

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Rebuild Recommendation

Use retaining walls and expand the capacity of the guts for flood control.

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Release Point

The final intervention site focuses on filtering the water that flows through the gut before it reaches the sea. With the WAPA facility to the east and residential on all sides, this site is a prime location to consider how environmental sustainability can become part of daily life for St. Croix.

Baseline Recommendation

Organize a gut stewardship team.

Retrofit Recommendation

Expand buffer zones.

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Rebuild Recommendation

Build gut terracing to prevent erosion.

Rebuild Recommendation

Install barriers and filtration devices.

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Although the strategies on the previous pages are meant to be viewed as a potential pilot project applied only to this specific gut, this process could inform future gut interventions across the island. The following page lists some key takeaways from the design process, based on the different site-specific approaches. 

The guts are a critical piece of St. Croix’s infrastructure and should be treated as such. They’re incredibly complex systems, performing different functions and facing different issues throughout their life cycle. Although designing physical interventions to address current issues may be difficult, it’s crucial to find ways to highlight their importance in the daily lives of Crucian residents. Creating sustained and meaningful interaction with the guts will help achieve the goal of stewardship and lead to a more resilient St. Croix. 


“2019 US Virgin Islands Code Title 29 - Public Planning and Development Chapter 3 - Virgin Islands Zoning and Subdivision Law Subchapter I - Zoning Law § 225. Definitions,” n.d. 

Watershed Consulting Associates, LLC. “Bethlehem, St. Croix Watershed Management Plan,” 2022.

 “Diamond, St. Croix Watershed Management Plan,” 2022. 

Lloyd Gardner. “A Strategy for Management of Ghuts in the U.S. Virgin Islands.” Water Resources Research Institute, University of the Virgin Islands., 2008. 

“Riverine Flooding in the U.S. Virgin Islands.” USVI Hazard Mitigation & Resilience Plan, n.d.

McKenzie-Mohr, Doug. “Fostering Sustainable Behavior through Community-Based Social Marketing.” American Psychologist 55, no. 5 (2000): 531–37. 

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Environmental Stewardship,” n.d. American Society of Landscape Architects. “The Copenhagen Cloudburst Formula: A Strategic Process for Planning and Designing Blue-Green Interventions” n.d. 

“Watersquare Benthemplein.” De Urbanisten, n.d. “U.S. Virgin Islands Development Code.” Center for Planning Practice, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 2014. 

The St. Croix Resiliency Studio also included:

Wynter Adams

Makayla Davis

Emily Goldstein

Jaylene Gutierrez

Amelia Marcantonio-Fields,

Olivia Marcus

Eliza Nobles

Gabe Orduña

Charley Townsley

Julian Turley


Scott Page 

Jamie Granger

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