Emilio Wilson Foundation repeats plea for protection in face of new development planPOSTED: 11/2/11 12:26 PM
A view of part of the Emilio Wilson Estate taken from inside the Emilio Wilson Park.
St. Maarten – The Emilio Wilson Estate Foundation issued a statement Tuesday calling on the government to use all possible legal and financial means necessary to secure the Emilio Wilson Estate as the island’s first land-based protected area and national park. This is their reaction to information they’ve received that government departments are reviewing a document called the “Golden Rock Park proposal” that’s been tabled by Rain Forest Adventures. The foreign company wants to turn the estate into a mass tourism amusement park for primarily (Cruise Ship) tourists, featuring zip-lining, chair-lifts to the top of the hill and rock climbing.
“It would set an unwanted precedent if Government were to even consider supporting the Golden Rock Park proposal on the Emilio Wilson Estate, which has been formally established as a national monument and is clearly a part of the people’s patrimony,” the Emilio Wilson Estate Foundation stated in a release.
The Emilio Wilson Estate Foundation has been working since 2005 to ensure that the entire Emilio Wilson Estate and all associated man-made as well as natural monuments are protected. At the time of establishment the foundation was working to prevent the development of a gated residential area. Now they want to stop the planned development in the “Golden Rock Park proposal”.
“The proposed project does not provide for educational activities regarding the Emilio Wilson Estate’s history and its importance as a unique aspect of St. Maarten’s, the Dutch Kingdom’s and the Caribbean’s shared heritage. The “Golden Rock Park Proposal” is focused on the commercial, mass exploitation of the Emilio Wilson Estate in the form of an amusement park with no noteworthy conservation initiatives and no regard for the cultural significance of the area and our ancestors who toiled on the Estate for generations during slavery,” the foundation stated.
The group has also stated that the government would be violating the Hillside Policy if it grants a permit for Rain Forest Adventures to build the project. The policy states that “no building should occur on hill tops, ridges, and above 200 meter altitude line”.
“As is the case with many of the Hills in the Cull-de-Sac valley, the area above 200 meters is the most ecologically significant area of the Sentry Hill/ Emilio Wilson Estate. The proposed activities would have a permanent and undesirable impact on the Flora and (Avi-) Fauna of the area both during and after construction,” the foundation stated.
According to their release the foundation itself has been applying to several Dutch and international donors over the past six years to purchase the entire estate, but they’ve been turned down each time because there is no financial or legislative support from the government. The applications were all based on a business plan to create and maintain the “Emilio Wilson Estate Ecological and Historical Centre”, which would function like Curacao’s Christoffel park, Aruba’s Parke Arikok and Puerto Rico’s many protected areas.
The foundation sees their request as a continuation of the Island Council resolution of September 20, 2005 that was aimed at protecting the Emilio Wilson Estate. Government has taken several basic measures like placing the entire area on the monument list, between 2005 and 2008, but the foundation believes they must now work to protect the entire area.
“Government has made commitments to the people of St. Maarten to protect the entire Emilio Wilson Estate which is now officially a recognized national monument. The Foundation is therefore surprised to have been informed that Minister Heyliger is supporting the Rain Forest Adventures “Golden Rock Park proposal” and that the plan is now being reviewed by relevant government departments,” the foundation’s release stated.