Petition against drag racing strip slowly gains support – Government stops filling Great Salt Pond for now

POSTED: 09/26/12 12:23 PM

St. Maarten – The Ministry of Vromi made the decision sometime last week to stop the filling a section of the Great Salt Pond often described as “North Dijk” for the construction of a drag racing strip, Secretary General Louis Brown said.

When asked if public pressure motivated the decision, Brown said it had nothing to do with that but rather “there was misunderstanding about whether or not there were permits in place for the filling and when it was determined that indeed the necessary permits were not in place the minister instructed that filling be stopped.”

Other concerns are whether there has been an infringement on the area designated as a protected monument and the capacity of the Great Salt Pond to retain water after further filling in.

For now, the Ministry of Vromi plans to conduct an investigation into the issue. Brown was asked whether any social partners or environmentalists would become part of the investigative team, to which he replied in the negative.

Persons carrying out the filling works which encompasses relocating sand from the harbor dredging to the Salt Pond were asked to stop but that does not mean that the project itself has stopped, Brown clarified.

He added that he has no idea who the principals are for the proposed drag racing strip and cricket stadium.

Several sections of society have vehemently rejected the both projects that were announced by Deputy Prime Minister William Marlin recently. It is said that the projects will boost sports tourism, but citizens believe that the government should maintain the existing sports facilities. The cricket stadium was planned for Pond Island near the Little League Ball Park and the drag racing strip near the North Eastern section of the Pond.  Concerns centre on the destruction of the island’s wetlands and the noise pollution a drag racing strip would bring affecting residents of a built up area and animals in the zoo.

It is for this reason that online petition, now into its third day “Say No to Drag Racing Strip in Great Salt Pond” is seeking to attach some 1000 signatures to an official document that will be sent to the Deputy Prime Minister William Marlin.

Up to press time, 270 citizens had electronically signed the petition, several of them using the opportunity to make comments at the same time.

Head of Disaster Management and Preparedness Paul Martens wrote “Please preserve the historical Salt Pond and the animal life present there. The monies for the drag strip should be used to upgrade our current sports facilities.”

A passionate Fleur Hermanides noted “We have facilities but they are definitely not up to par, it’s embarrassing to see what shape they are in. We want to stimulate health and well-being amongst our population, not more traffic deaths. Stimulate more sports through upgrading the facilities we have, this not only stimulates health and well-being but also a more active social life. Not only should the abovementioned be taken into consideration, the Great Salt Pond and its Salt Pans are also one of our last cultural heritage sites that should be preserved. Having this ‘drag strip’ in the middle of town will ruin this, along with devaluating all the residential areas that can be affected by this through noise, dust and exhaust pollutants and not to think how this affects the health and well-being of the persons residing there, along with all the nature that has slowly but surely started coming back to the island after the years of hurricanes in the 90’s. The Salt Pond is internationally recognized as an Important Birding Area (IBA), this will be lost. The animals in the zoo will be traumatized. All the natural waters on the island also serve a function, further filling in the few natural waters we still have will only cause more flooding danger with all the disastrous effects that can follow. There are too many cons’ and too little pro’s, easy as that!”

Mercedes De Windt of The Daily Herald and Dolphin Defenders commented “There are so many other issues that need attention and priorities which will benefit the whole community.”

“I am totally against filling in of any more of our waters for whatever reason. Instead of seeking alternatives government uses our water as a carte blanche to do whatever, because they don’t have to pay for it. Sewage, ring road, political favors, you name it. Government should be put under guardianship where our water rights are concerned. Anything involving water rights must be co-signed by at least two environmental groups,” Sheila C. Hodge wrote.

“The maintenance of existing facilities is more important at this stage. A drag strip would be nice but not in the Great Salt Pond and not at this time,” Policy Officer of the Ministry of Justice Ludmila York-Duncan gave as her reason for signing the petition.

Monique Alberts, Director of the Philipsburg Jubilee Library and attorneys Wim Van Sambeek and Michel Soons also signed the petition.

Last evening an anonymous petitioner wrote “Despite newspaper report trucks are driving off and on continuously at this moment September 25 at 17:00 hrs. Let them stop now!”

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