PHILIPSBURG–Sections of the community on Monday expressed outrage concerning news that a gate had been erected that blocked the road leading to Fort Amsterdam at the Divi Little Bay Resort property.
“Totally unacceptable,” was how Education Minister Silveria Jacobs described Divi’s move to erect the gate without an explanation to government.
Divi said in an invited comment that “as owner of the Fort Amsterdam property,” they had an obligation to ensure safe and secure access to the property.
A sign near the gate reads: “No unauthorized admittance. Hazardous area, dangerous cliffs. All visitors must obtain written permission from Divi Little Bay Resort.”
Divi said that at the moment there are only, informal, unlit paths and it is 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. 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,” the Resort said.
“Divi looks forward to 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 artefacts and people.”
Divi said groups will continued to be allowed, provided the Resort is contacted and permission is obtained at least one day in advance.
Jacobs said in a letter to Divi General Manager Celine van Meer that it was with great astonishment that she had read the several postings and seen photos of the erected gate restricting access to the entrance of the Fort on Facebook.
As Minister charged with the portfolio of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Affairs, whereby making St. Maarten’s patrimony accessible to the public is one of the Ministry’s highest priorities, Jacobs invited Van Meer to a meeting to further discuss this matter at her office today, Tuesday, April 9 at 4:00pm.
Concerned Citizen Barbara Cannegieter, in a letter that appears in today’s Opinion pages, questioned why Divi had erected the gate and whether it had 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 is protected and that Divi must allow public access,” she said.
“Is Divi allowing public access? Is a small opening on the side 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. If foot access is allowed, then there should be a sign stating that,” she argued.
“I certainly do not feel that St. Maarten people should have to ask Divi permission to enter their own historical cultural site. I would like some answers from government regarding the status of the site. It would be nice if government and Divi could work together to keep the site clean and to advertise the site as an important historical place to visit,” said Cannegieter.
“Offer tours, erect a sign or plaque indicating the history of the place. Make it an interesting welcoming site for us to appreciate. And, please, take down that existing sign and the gate. It’s insulting.”
Several persons also expressed concerns on the erection of the gate via social media sites such as Facebook. – TDH