Rainforest Adventures fires back: “Allow me to correct some facts”

POSTED: 01/21/14 12:46 PM

St. Maarten – Chief Engineer of Rain Forest Adventures (RFA) John Dalton is not taking President of the Emilio Wilson Estate Foundation Reuben Thompson’s recent remarks lying down.  Thompson wrote a scathing critique of RFA in a January 15 letter to the editor, criticizing an editorial in The Daily Herald and lambasting the company’s business practices. But Dalton has fired back.

“Please allow me to correct some facts recently misstated by Mr. Ruben Thompson regarding Rain Forest Adventures and the eco tourism park in Dominica,” Dalton said in a letter to the press. “RFA commissioned the park in 2003 with the help of the Development Bank of Dominica and a tax holiday from government. It appeared that the project would succeed on the ‘Nature Island’ with this assistance and RFA did all in its power to make it so,” Dalton explained.

“Government changed and the World Bank pressured Dominica until a 15% VAT was put in place in 2007. The negative effects of the unexpected 15% tax and associated reduction of cruise ship visitation caused us to run at a loss consistently over the 9 years of operation,” Dalton went on. “We continued to support the operation and kept trying to enhance the tram with new experiences including the commissioning of a new spectacular zip line in 2011. The sulfurous environment (from the Boiling Lake) was always a challenge,” he said, in reference to Thompson’s remarks that the company’s equipment was “left to rust.” Sulfur is notoriously corrosive, even for stainless steel.

Dalton described how the exterior of the towers were well maintained, “but I worried about the inside so we purchased a special inspection camera and dropped it down into the towers to have a look.  It was no longer safe to operate the tram and running it at a loss, we could not justify replacing the high cost tram. The development bank and government decided it was in their best interest to take over the assets of RFA in Dominica with the intent of rebuilding and capitalizing on some promising geothermal exploration on the property so they became the owners during the settling of accounts,” he said.

 

“Mr. Thompsons chides the editor of The Daily Herald for not doing his research and then makes the statement that RFA ‘closed its doors from one day to the next,’ which is true – we do not compromise on safety,” Dalton pointed out.  But he contested Thompson’s claim that “the foreign managers the company flies in to manage its amusement parks at all its destinations simply moved on to another site.” Dalton strongly denied this. “Not true, the employees were 100% Dominican trained on site, including the general manager.”

 

Thompson had written that “carts and other materials were left to rust and rot away in the forest of Dominica for months on end by Rain Forest Adventures.” Again, Dalton countered. “Not true, we had a plan to remove the material but the development bank and government acquired the assets intending to use them. Mr. Thompson has my email and could have easily asked me what happened in Dominica as part of his ‘research’ rather than make false claims and once again accuse RFA of deception,” he said.

“We were very sorry to close the operation in Dominica where we won many awards including ‘the best environmental land excursion’ and took thousands of Dominican students for free to educate them on the importance of saving rainforests, not to mention the loss to all of our dedicated employees,” Dalton expressed.

“Regarding RFA in St Maarten and the issuance of a monument permit, Mr. Thompson states that the permit is illegal and correctly quotes that government shall “consult the Monument Council whenever a “monument permit” has been requested for the demolition or alteration of a monument.”

“Prior to issuance of the permit I attended a meeting with the relevant ministers who acknowledged that the project was based on reconstructing the original monument with additional enhancements and not demolition or alteration of the original monument in which case consulting the non-existent Monument Council was not required,” Dalton pointed out.

Dalton quotes Thompson’s letter one last time, where Thompson wrote, “In closing, the EWEF kindly reminds the editor that editorials should be based on objective reasoning and impartial evaluation rather than on unsubstantiated, clearly subjective opinions and political favoritism.”  And Dalton responded by saying, “Mr. Thompson – that sounds to me like the pot calling the kettle black!”

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