“Take down that existing sign and gate. It’s insulting.” Gate blocks historical site at Divi Little Bay

POSTED: 04/9/13 11:48 AM

St. Maarten – Since a few days there is a huge commotion around a gate that has been placed in front of the entrance of Fort Amsterdam on the premises of Divi Little Bay Resort.

The large sign reads: ‘No Unauthorized Admittance; Hazardous Area-Dangerous Cliffs; All Visitors Must Obtain Written Permission from Divi Little Bay Beach Resorts’ is placed before the gate which blocks the entrance to the historical spot.

St. Maartener Barbara Cannegieter expressed in a letter to this newspaper her concerns about the matter. “It has come to my attention that recently Divi Little Bay erected a gate on the road leading up to Fort Amsterdam. On the left hand side there is an opening, so if you were on foot you could enter. But would you? Would you enter on foot if there was a big sign telling you that you are unauthorized and you need permission first? I doubt it,” she says.

The questions she asked is one that many other people on St. Maarten are wondering about; Why did Divi put up with the sign and the gate, and if they have permission to do so.

“It is my understanding that, although the land is owned by Divi, the fort is the only zoned area on the island that it is protected, and that Divi must allow public access,” Cannegieter added. “Is a small opening on the site where foot traffic can pass allowing public access?  It is my opinion that by erecting the gate and sign, Divi is in effect intimidating us and trying to keep us out,” she said. “If foot access is allowed, then there should be a sign stating that. I certainly do not feel that St. Maarten people should have to ask Divi permission to enter their own historical cultural site.”

In her further responds about Fort Amsterdam Cannegieter says that Divi needs to work together with the government to keep the site clean, and asks the government to respond to this matter in regarding the status of the site. “They have to combine forces in working together; to keep the site clean and to advertise the site as an important historical place to visit. Offer tours, erect a sign or plaque indicating the history of the place. Make it an interesting welcoming site for us to appreciate.”

Her final comment on the gate and sign is simple; “Please, take down that existing sign and gate. It’s insulting!”

The picture of the gate and its matching sign was one of the main topics on Facebook. Comments such as “This cannot be happening to our heritage”, “This is a shame”, “This is now a gate to nowhere, wow” and “Unacceptable and action will be taken!” are some of the many reactions to the picture.

A comment made by Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports, Silveria Jacobs, who was one of the many responders, stated; “This is an appalling and alarming development which will definitely be addressed.”

The management of  Divi Little Bay Resort stated that it will not close off the site for visitors and that they are still allowed to visit the fort through the entrance on the left. It has only been placed to keep out motorized vehicles for the safety of their guests.

“As owner of the Fort Amsterdam property, Divi has an obligation to ensure safe and secure access to the property,” the management of Divi stated in a press release. “At present, there are only informal unlighted paths and we are concerned that people are going to get hurt. While Divi recognizes the public’s interest in the historic nature of the fort and sights of the peninsula, it cannot allow visitors to put themselves at risk,” it continued.

“Some of these trails are at elevation and subject to extremely high winds.  They are simply not safe for children or adults in their current condition. Divi looks forward a day when the property can be sensibly and responsibly developed with due consideration for preservation and restoration of the fort for enjoyment by all, but until such time access must be restricted to Divi monitored groups for the protection of artifacts and people.  Groups will continue to be allowed provided the resort is contacted and permission is obtained at least one day in advance,” the statement concluded.



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