~ By Robert Luckock ~
PHILIPSBURG--It’s an early Saturday morning and a couple of reporters are sitting in an Argo trundling up the steep mountainside above Emilio Wilson Estate, something that would have seemed inconceivable years ago.
It’s with some trepidation that this invitation to tour the Rain Forest Adventure project starts by gazing up at our destination: the summit of Sentry Hill. At the controls of the eight-wheel-drive Argo is the project’s General Manager, Scott Swietanski, who skilfully negotiates the steep ascent; the vehicle’s wheels nimbly gripping the rocks and dirt.
The company bought three of these Argos to transport workers up the mountain, the best vehicles for tackling the steep gradient.
Excavators took about three weeks to cut a track in a more or less direct line up to the summit which was less invasive than excavating longer zig-zag tracks.
“I come up here two or three times a day. I must have done it a thousand times already,” Swietanski says nonchalantly.
Without this access there is no way of constructing the ski lift and zip-line attractions Rain Forest Adventures is offering.
Our ride ends at a partly constructed transfer station just below the summit of Sentry Hill. From here another lift will take tourists to the summit for the start of the Flying Dutchman zip-line. For us it’s another 20-minute hike, some of it on man-made steps, passing alarming drop-offs, to access the summit and that familiar aircraft beacon.
It goes without saying the 360 degree views are amazing, except on this morning the Philipsburg view was spoilt by a dump fire. It takes a bit of getting used to that people are actually working at this altitude to create the zip-line infrastructure, wooden observation decks and cat walks.
Installing the infrastructure for the ski lift seems a daunting task and Swietanski, a veteran of ski lift projects, admits he finds this one a challenge, not least because of the extremely hard rock that had to be excavated. The lift system will be supported by 15 towers, the foundations for which are under construction.
Over 50,000 pounds of steel rebar has been carried from the top transfer station to the summit by some 20 workers for the foundations and on November 3 a heavy-duty helicopter arrives to deliver concrete on the mountain, about 156 cubic yards of concrete which will then need three days to cure.
Then it will take another eight days of flying ski lift parts, the giant Bull-wheels, steel and lumber up the mountain. All the ski lift parts and bollards for the zip-lines have arrived.
The helicopter is departing from Atlanta, Georgia, on November 1 and does a few island hops before reaching St. Maarten.
“Our goal is to get all the materials up there and then focus on getting the ski lift running so we can use the ski lift to transport men and equipment up to the job site,” Swietanski explains.
Each chair on the ski lift carries four passengers and 1,000 people per hour can be transported.
Lift number one is 790 metres in length with a vertical rise of 251 metres and lift number two 138 metres with vertical rise to 196 metres.
The Flying Dutchman zip-line is 780 metres in length, a drop of 300 metres, and will be the steepest in the world with a 41.5 per cent slope. Initially it will start as four zip-lines in one but has the capacity to be increased to eight if demand warrants it.
For the less brave, family-friendly, low elevation zip-lines will also be available.
The zip-line systems have been outsourced to the company Zip Rider which will be installing the equipment in January 2017.
And at a mid-way point, fun seekers can get off the ski lift and do the tubing attraction. Artificial grass, misted with water, will be used for the slide. A Humming Bird garden is also planned.
After five years of negotiating with Government, overcoming resistance from environmental groups and individuals, completing the necessary studies and obtaining permits, the project is in a good place right now.
“Construction began in May this year but after a couple of months of slow progress we are now going full throttle,” Swietanski states enthusiastically. “We’re definitely on track for a mid-June/July opening. We’ve worked hard at showing politicians and sceptics the project and now everyone is loving it. I don’t think we have many detractors anymore.”
Whether zip-lining, tubing or just using the chair lift, everyone arrives back at ground level. The Emilio Wilson park will contain various buildings; an entrance building to buy tickets and obtain information, a museum, restaurant and bar, restrooms, gift shop, photo shop, administration building, visitor parking for cars and buses, and so forth. The whole area will be landscaped using the natural trees and other features.
Swietanski emphasised much effort is going into retaining the historical aspects of the old buildings, keeping the original stonework or woodwork where possible or replicating it. Several artefacts have been found for the museum though not as many as expected.
“This is a commercial venture of course for us but we have alternative motives too to educate visitors about the culture and history of St. Maarten and in the future to encourage reforestation.”
Currently some 50 to 60 employees are working on the Rain Forest project. Work on lower buildings has been contracted out separately to Liccom NV.
With cruise ship lines clamouring for new activities for their guests, it’s hard to imagine this project could not be a success for Government and the island’s tourism, a win-win situation for all concerned.
PHILIPSBURG--In continuing its support for the eradication of polio worldwide, Rotary Club of Maarten Mid-Isle held its second fundraising event this past Saturday, The Ramesh Manek “End Polio Now” walk-a-thon.
PHILIPSBURG--The young writers of Teen Times urged parents on Sunday to be more vigilant with their teens and how they use their smartphones. According to Teen Times, there has been an alarming increase of young people, mostly teenage girls, posting and sharing what are known as “nudes” in online friendship circles, which eventually make it to social media and beyond.
They happen so often one almost doesn’t want to even discuss them anymore, were it not so annoying and unacceptable in this day and age: The frequent dump fires (see related story) are an outrage.
The latest one lasted practically the whole weekend. The Fire Department said Saturday morning that it was monitoring the blaze on Pond Island and the company responsible for the management of the landfill had been working diligently to get it under control, yet smoke could still be seen coming from “Mount Trash” up to Sunday evening.
At one point residents in areas downwind, including the Cul de Sac basin and Cole Bay, were also advised to close windows and doors because of the potentially damaging fumes, especially persons with respiratory difficulties like those suffering from asthma, shortness of breath, etc. That’s undoubtedly good advice, but for households without air-conditioning it can also be quite a challenge to do so for any length of time due to the heat, never mind the also-frequent GEBE power cuts.
A long-term solution for St. Maarten’s garbage dilemma has become more than urgent, yet successive governments don’t seem able to deal with the problem effectively despite long-standing plans for a waste-to-energy plant. Certainly with large-scale projects such as Pearl of China coming on line, this issue deserves the highest priority from both the incoming Parliament and Council of Ministers.
However, immediate measures that can improve the current situation also should be possible and were suggested recently. In fact, a review of the agreement with the contactor in charge of the facility was even mentioned to see whether that might have anything to do with it, also because it had been awarded for a considerably lower amount than the former arrangement.
However, the public rarely hears much about the results of such announced intentions except to once again be confronted with yet another smelly reminder of the local political authorities’ obvious continued incompetence regarding this matter.
The Committee for Financial Supervision CFT is awaiting the 2015 annual reports of more than 30 Government-owned companies, institutions and organisations receiving public funds (see related story). In fact, only three of the 40 apparently complied with the legal obligation to supply such within five months after the closure of the financial year.
That’s obviously not good enough and clearly against the rules. What’s worse, while the majority are one or two years behind and 10 have at least submitted their 2014 reports, others have been in violation longer and eight of them five or more years.
There had been some discussion in the past on whether these often greatly autonomous entities should fall under the CFT’s competence in the first place, but it’s stipulated in the Kingdom Financial Supervision and actually beside the point. The reports should be submitted in St. Maarten on time regardless.
The laws of the land must always be respected, certainly by Government-related bodies, also to set the right example. If not, why even have a Corporate Governance Code?
As usual, enforcement is the key, which is where the people’s representatives elected to Parliament come in. They must see to it that the Council of Ministers puts pressure on the supervisory boards as well as managements to do what is required; no ifs, no buts.
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados--Cut out the religious mumbo jumbo! That’s the call of University of the West Indies (UWI) political scientist Tennyson Joseph, who says it’s time to end religious teachings and introduce a fully secular curriculum in Barbados’ schools.
PARAMARIBO--A homophobic dancehall artiste who was arrested during a drug bust last week, has said that he was dabbling in crime to put food on the table for his nine children and the two others that his two girlfriends will soon give birth to.
WASHINGTON- - AT&T Inc's proposed $85 billion takeover of Time Warner Inc generated skepticism among both Democrats and Republicans on Sunday, making it more likely that regulators will closely scrutinize the effort to create a new telecommunications and media giant.
NEW YORK-- AT&T Inc has reached an agreement in principle to buy Time Warner Inc for about $85 billion, sources said on Friday, paving the way for the biggest deal in the world this year that would give the telecom company control of cable TV channels HBO and CNN, film studio Warner Bros and other coveted media assets.
LOS ANGELES-- It was a battle of the sequels at the multiplexes this weekend, as "Boo! A Madea Halloween" narrowly edged out "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" to claim first place at the domestic box office.
LOS ANGELES-- Actor and singer Donald Glover will be playing Lando Calrissian in the young Han Solo spin-off film from the "Star Wars" universe, Walt Disney Co and Lucasfilm said on Friday.
CHARLOTTE, N.C./NAPLES, Fla.,-- Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called Donald Trump a "sore loser" on Sunday because of his refusal at their debate last week to commit to accepting the results of the Nov. 8 election.
JOHNSTOWN, Pa./CLEVELAND-- Republican candidate Donald Trump said on Friday that he continues to believe the Nov. 8 election is "rigged" against him, a message that has resonated with members of his party, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll shows.
LUCKNOW, India-- When Amit Shah, president of Narendra Modi's ruling party, meets with the Indian prime minister, he is sometimes asked a question he struggles to answer: "What is behenji thinking?"
ESEKA, Cameroon-- Fourteen people remained trapped on Friday under the wreckage of a packed passenger train that derailed en route between Cameroon's two largest cities, killing at least 55 and injuring 575, the government said in a communique read on state television.
Aruba defeated Netherlands 11-0 in the opening game of the Kingdom Baseball Tournament in Aruba. Team St. Maarten is scheduled to face Curacao 1 Monday morning, Curacao 2 Tuesday morning and Aruba in the afternoon.
FLORIDA-- Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey says he cannot stop smiling when anyone mentions Jay Ajayi.
Nowadays, molesting children is as common as buying a newspaper! It’s like the word decency has been completely erased, and the joy of seeing children blossom into adulthood, has disappeared forever. The unfortunate situation within this community, is that many choose to make noise when it is convenient for them. If all cases of sexual abuse of minors were viewed in the same manner as the accused principal, then the outcry would appear to be sincere.
Last year, when the news broke and the school management refused to address the parents and the Minister of Education, in a timely fashion, most of the people remained silent on the issue. As a matter of fact, some persons defended him. Imagine: one gentleman called in on a programme to express his discontent with the principal. The host responded by telling him he does not have time for that talk, and that the principal made a mistake. Wow! If the principal had molested one of his children, would he still classify that action as a mistake?
Others vehemently and deliberately tried to squash the story by saying the community is spoiling the principal’s name. When the basketball coach was also indicted for the same offence, another concerned citizen called in to discuss the matter. Instead of the host being sensitive to the caller’s concern and the situation at hand, he brushed the caller off in the same manner as expressed above. Then it calls to question, what is the real purpose of advocating for the community, when persons within the society cannot express the issues that are important to them?
With all of the sexual abuse cases that were made public, why was the uproar so muffled then, and how many of them took the time to console the parents, who are just as traumatized by this horrific crime? What is amazing and extremely dangerous, is that some people tend to lash out at paedophiles who were condemned by the court, but continue to condone those in their own backyard. The question should be asked: Is the principal the only member of that organization to be defrocked and why?
In any case, no one will convince me that the management and staff of that school were not aware of his conduct. Whenever a paedophile is being exposed, the victim in question is just a tiny fraction of all the other victims. That is why throughout 2013 and beyond, I pleaded with parents to be vigilant with their children. I have also stressed the importance of having a clear view of what is happening in the classroom at all times. No door should be completely wooden; not even the principal’s office. If school principals are who they profess to be, then there is no need to be alarmed if someone suddenly pops up at the door.
It is time that this community quits burying its head in the sand and be aware of the people, who are designated to deal with the welfare of children. Don’t be fooled! The basketball coach and principal are not isolated cases. There are several others who continue to play hide and seek, because of the leniency of the justice and educational systems.
Imagine that, the majority of paedophiles are awarded minimal sentences or even just a kiss on the cheek. Likewise, some teachers who were discharged for the same misconduct are being absorbed into government, in a different capacity. Then, isn’t government recycling the process and contributing to the destruction of the very lives that it claims to protect? I have mentioned several times before that all persons who work with children should be thoroughly checked out prior to assuming their position. A police record has no value for these kinds of people who seek a certificate of conduct.
The fact that the principal has admitted to giving one of his victims alcohol, is a clear indication that his actions were intentional. And if he is so innocent, why does he hide his face every time he goes to trial? It is so sad to see that during the proceedings, his position to guide and protect all children entrusted in his care, did not even come into question. And, the thought of him molesting little boys when he gets out, is also not a concern for the judges. Then what purpose are they to the community if they cannot render justice where fairness is due?
Do we know why judges will continue to rule in the manner that they do? It is because the community has failed to rise up and challenge them on their decisions, especially in cases of this heinous crime against children. When will they acknowledge that child molesters are like a runaway train? They do not stop until they are being stopped. Therefore, it now becomes the duty of the community to hold organizations and government responsible for hiring paedophiles, who are forever destroying the fabric of this society.
When my boyfriend and I are together he spends most of his time playing video games or watching TV and drinking beer until he falls asleep or wants sex and if I complain about being ignored he gets mad at me for being insecure.
Queenie, I love him and I don’t want to break his heart by breaking up with him but even when I’m with him I feel lonely.—Ignored girlfriend
If your boyfriend’s TV or his game console breaks down it might break his heart, but he will scarcely notice your breaking up with him until he feels like having sex. If he really cared for you – or even just respected you – he would be more considerate of your feelings.
Dump this jerk and look for someone who at least has better manners.