Opinion: A view on St. Maarten beaches

POSTED: 01/30/13 2:08 PM

Jeff Berger’s St. Maarten Weekly News electronic newsletter every now and then contains useful criticism of the Friendly Island. Never one to mince his words, Berger puts his finger on those shortcomings that are screaming for improvement and that nobody on the island seems to notice anymore. This is his view on beaches:

Despite the fact that in the last 30+ years, virtually every square inch of the once barren Orient Beach has been developed, nobody has any problem accessing it. You can park for free and just go.

Not so on the Dutch Side. Development there has made beach access at some beaches problematic. Dawn Beach, Pelican Beach, Guana Bay, and Cupecoy Beach are prime examples (see article 14 in this issue) despite the fact that the island still says all beaches are “public.”

Several years ago, construction crews at the northern end of Cupecoy Beach started bulldozing the beach to build Richard London’s folly, Shore Pointe Condominiums. The place is beautiful but it should never have been built since it hogs a good chunk of the beach. We had suggested an island park there to preserve the beach in perpetuity for St. Maarteners and visitors.

Original plans called for Shore Pointe to go straight to the water line. When Jack “Mr. St. Maarten” Rinaldi and I became aware of that, we published fax numbers and email addresses of top government officials. More than 1000 readers barraged officials with protests. The result was that Shore Pointe was pushed back by about 10 meters.

We also said the construction would largely destroy the beach through erosion. It has done exactly that to that section of beach.

An old song says, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” St. Maarten seems to have a knack for weakening their tourism product when in fact they should be constantly working to enhance it. Cupecoy is still a great beach, but the northern end usually has little sand and that should not be the case.

Orient, as we’ve reported, is not in terrible shape, but it has suffered from more erosion than usual and it isn’t exactly recovering.

But here’s the bad news: the French Side government has constructed “no nudity” signs outside Club Orient and gendarmes are in heavy patrol to enforce it. Club Orient, the naturist resort, is fine.

Years ago Orient Beach was an internationally famous nude beach; now only the Club Orient section can be used nude.

Meanwhile, the scrub that shielded Cupecoy from view has been almost entirely cleared. On Thursday last week, ground clearing crews prevented beach parking near the beaches with boulders, but moved them. The reason, they said, was to protect people in cars from being hurt by scrub clearing equipment. Things seemed near normal late Thursday.

But, why the clearing? Our guess: the owner wants the property to look better so he can sell it. It would be perfect for the Dutch Side government to buy the property for a National Park, but that’s unlikely at best. It should be preserved. But one look at Sapphire, Rainbow, and The Cliff tells you the Dutch Side does not want to preserve Cupecoy for future generations. It just wants to develop the property which will eliminate public access and collect taxes.

So far, Berger’s comments. We’ll add one point to it: the no nudity signs on Orient beach. It’s true, they are there. Past Pedro’s no nudity is allowed. That is to say: after eight o’clock in the morning. The rascals at Club O still walk the beach early morning in the state they were born.

And the gendarmerie only sends its greenhorns to do the patrols, so it’s not all that bad.

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Comments (2)

 

  1. steph says:

    Orient Beach is still the best beach on the island – have never came across anybody that was upset with nudity…
    French St. Martin ist far more authentic than the Dutch side: absolutely a better place to spend a holiday !

  2. Scot Hart says:

    My wife and I spent two wonderful weeks at St. Martin.
    We stayed on the French side and loved it! We also enjoyed the Dutch side, but the French side represents what we envision when thinking of the Caribbean dream of an idyllic vacation.