Rain Forest Adventures Park ready next year April/MayPOSTED: 02/22/16 12:04 PM
The view from Sentry Hill puts Cul de Sac and the Great Salt Pond in a different perspective. Photo Today / Hilbert Haar
St. Maarten News / By Hilbert Haar – The excavator that is slowly making its way to the top of Sentry Hill on the Emilio Wilson Estate in Cul de Sac has not escaped the attention of those who are concerned about the conservation of the country’s national heritage. From that perspective, the inevitable has begun: the construction of the Rain Forest Adventures Park. For now, the contractors are in the process of creating a service road to the top of the hill that will also function as an evacuation route in case equipment breaks down and tourists have to be evacuated from the top of the hill.
Chief engineer and project leader John Dalton told this newspaper yesterday that the construction of the pylons for the zip-line will begin next month. The zip-line will carry tourists from the top of Sentry Hill to a station at street level that will be situated across from the John Cooper / José Lake Ball Park. The Adventures Park is scheduled to be completed by April of May of next year.
Climbing along the rough path the excavator has made upwards is not exactly a walk in the park. At places the trajectory is so steep that the only way getting forward is with your hands dug into the freshly cut earth. On the other hand, the view of Cul de Sac and Philipsburg is breathtaking. The climb sent your heart rate into the stratosphere but in the end, it is all worth it. Tourist will be happy in the future that they will go to the top in a different way.
The path the excavator has cut over the hillside has inevitably struck down trees and bushes. At two spots, the machine has cut through what appears to be a historic slave wall. And at one point the stump of a tree is still standing, but the rest has been brutally cut away.
Rain Forest President Joseph Preschel told this newspaper in January of last year that the economic impact of the park on St. Maarten’s economy will be significant.
“In addition to lease payments to government, new permanent sources of tax revenues from employment, restaurants, merchandising and transportation will be created for the island, while increasing the tourist experience significantly,” he pointed out.
Over protests from local environmental groups, Preschel maintained that rainforest plans its parks carefully “to have a minimal foot print, connect visitors to nature, provide education on the importance of nature conservation and support local employment.”
Preschel said that less than 5 percent of the Emilio Wilson estate will be impacted by the park.
According to the company’s president, the project will create 40 to 60 direct local jobs, and additional indirect jobs in the transportation, merchandising and food industry.
Rain forest says it will apply its commitment to sustainability to the park in St Maarten. “The project will consist of a chairlift to the top of the mountain overlooking the entire island and a view extending out to all the neighboring islands. It will bestow on visitors an “Aha!” moment that they will remember for a very long time,” Preschel said last year. “There will be five appealing attractions in a world class park, all of which will be built and operated to US and European standards. Three of these will be new and unique to St. Maarten.”
Rainforest Adventures new park will include the renovation of the original plantation house built by John Philips (namesake of Philipsburg), “turning it into a museum and celebrating and sharing the powerful story of Emilio Wilson whose dream became reality when he purchased this plantation where his great grandmother was born as a slave. In addition the original stone boiling house will be renovated and used for daily operations as well as a venue for special events.”