Minister Lake visits Causeway Roundabout; Disappointed at PRIDE Remarks

Minister of Public Housing, Environment, Spatial Planning and Infrastructure (Ministry of VROMI) Hon. Maurice Lake on Saturday visited the Causeway Roundabout in Cole Bay near the border. 

Accompanying the Minister was a member of his Cabinet and Inspector Gout from the National Police Force.

The objective of the site visit was to gather information and review a few things before the round-about is finalized. A test run is to be carried out with a 40-footer container truck from a road safety perspective in a few days.

"I was not really shocked when I read the statement from the PRIDE Foundation, but more disappointed. As Minister, when I took over the responsibility of the ministry this project was ongoing and one of the principal bottlenecks was the tree and the road alignment.

"Because of the newly built round-a-bout and the road leading from the French side of the island, the road needed to be realigned to prevent road users from getting hurt or killed including tourists. The lives of people were the key issue – road safety. I am an advocate of my cultural heritage. As minister I held several meetings with the Inspector of Traffic, Nature Foundation, Lievense Consultants, Ministry VROMI and the contractor about this topic and particular the plans to protect the historical Tamarind Tree.

"All efforts were made to relocate the road with the traffic department and the discussions of pruning the Tree with Nature Foundation, and our own archeologist Prof. Jay Harviser. The final decision of the entire work group, including Nature Foundation was to remove the Tamarind Tree after we received a negative advice from the traffic police about allowing the tree to remain in the center of the two traffic lanes.

"Based on the public safety aspect of the visitors and residents of this Country the ministry acted and the decision to remove the tree was given. This whole discussion started under the previous minister and ended with me as minister, and all efforts were made to save the tree but it was not to be. I and the entire workgroup are also saddened by the fact that this historic Sint Maarten tree had to go.

"According to the Inspector of Traffic, that particular area has a very dangerous slope which you don’t normally realize until your speed is a little too high. The traffic police had to deal on several occasions in the past with accidents some with fatalities. A huge tamarind tree in the middle of a road was not a safe option for the Traffic Inspector based on the traffic law.

"As a Minister with the responsibility, I listened to the work group including also the serious concerns that came from our French counterparts, the Nature Foundation, archeologist Prof. Jay Harviser, and then made a final decision based on the traffic law of the land to save people’s lives in the best interest of this Country.

"It was a tough decision, but I had to look at the interests of all the people, not just of a few. Not just the environmentalist mourn the loss of this tree, but all Sint Maarteners do, we know the importance of the tree to our cultural heritage, but I made a realistic decision based on human life which comes first and foremost and in the general interest of the people.

"The Nature Foundation also asked to adapt the causeway roundabout on the Union road side so they could continue beautifying our island and this has been done.

"I am not here to play political games or be back and forth, I am also happy to see that Pride Foundation has gotten their voice back after a year of silence in the community with respect to other developments.

"The decision taken was made in the best interest of the people of this country in the interest of public safety," Minister Hon. Maurice Lake pointed out on Sunday.

PHOTO CUTLINE: Minister Maurice Lake (2nd from left) with representatives from the Contractor, his Cabinet and the Police. DCOMM Photo