MP Claudius “Toontje” Buncamper.
PHILIPSBURG–A request has been filed by Rainforest Adventures (RFA) to relinquish or give back “a substantial part” of the leased land it occupies to
government, and United St. Maarten Party (US Party) Member of Parliament (MP) Claudius “Toontje” Buncamper wants all, or a substantial portion of the land to be used for agricultural purposes.
Although the precise dimensions of the piece of land that will be relinquished is still being concluded, it looks like it will be approximately 44 per cent of the property, Buncamper said in a press release on Wednesday. Buncamper received the information in answers to questions he posed to VROMI Minister Egbert Doran.
According to Buncamper, the Department of Domain Affairs is in the final stages of handling the request.
In his questions to Doran, Buncamper said he alluded to the property currently being used by RFA and questioned the Minister on, amongst other things, “the illustrious plans for agriculture/reforestation of the Cul de Sac area”, and suggested that “we take back at least two thirds of the lands,” seeing the need to have land available for agriculture and that the property was acquired for such purposes, including a natural park.
Buncamper said Doran informed him in his response that there are no known plans for agriculture and that the agreed reforestation programme was carried out between July 2017 and May 2018. In the development agreement between RFA and St. Maarten, it is stated that RFA together with St. Maarten will jointly develop a number of programmes, one being for the reforestation of all indigenous plants and trees in St. Maarten.
There is no mention of agricultural plans or programmes in the development agreement. However, the reforestation programme was realised when RFA and Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) worked together on a BEST 2.0 European-funded project.
The project resulted in the reforestation of three sites in St. Maarten, one being the grounds of RFA on which some 300 indigenous trees were planted and are being maintained by RFA.
Buncamper said the Minister emphasized that property of RFA was not acquired for agricultural purposes; the Development Agreement states that it is for the purpose of an “Eco-Adventure and Nature Park.” RFA falls within two zoning areas: “Nature” and “Green Park.”
Buncamper commended Doran for re-acquiring part of the property and hopes that, if not all, a substantial part of it will be used for agriculture.