A small section of white mangroves was trimmed and removed on August 7 to make room for the public access viewing platform, which will provide a better bird-watching experience for enthusiasts and help foster environmental appreciation among both residents and visitors.
On Monday, local construction company Windward Roads removed a section of mangroves approximately two meters wide to install the floating platform, guided by proper procedures to minimize impact on the surrounding mangroves. White mangroves are less sensitive to trimming damage and have the highest recovery potential of the other species found on St. Maarten. The removal was supervised by Nature Foundation staff members.
The floating platform will comfortably accommodate up to fifteen people and will stretch twelve meters into Great Salt Pond. It was designed with high wooden slats and gaps through which people can see, in order to minimize disturbing the birds. The location was selected after extensive research determined that Great Salt Pond has a sufficiently high population of birds to warrant a formal viewing platform.
The St. Maarten Birding and Ecotourism project aims to preserve and further protect our remaining natural resources while providing opportunities for engagement and education through bird-focused infrastructure, tours, and presentations. The development of the birding platform aligns with the Nature Foundation’s commitment to providing high-quality environmental education, encouraging sustainable tourism, and increasing the conservation value of our ecosystems.
“We want to create a space where nature enthusiasts, birdwatchers, and researchers can gather to enjoy the beauty and biodiversity of the Great Salt Pond,” said the Birding and Ecotourism project coordinator, Kevin Sammy. “From the platform, visitors can view our island’s pelicans, egrets, frigatebirds, herons, and more, hopefully fostering a deeper understanding of the importance of wetland habitats to these birds as well as ourselves and our society.”
The Great Salt Pond birding platform will join the Little Bay viewing house as St. Maarten’s existing infrastructure for birding, along with a few dedicated observatories in Saint-Martin. It will be maintained and upkept by the Nature Foundation.
The R4CR (Resources for Community Resilience) program is financed by the Government of the Netherlands via the Sint Maarten Trust Fund. The latter is administered by the World Bank and implemented by the NRPB (National Recovery Program Bureau). The R4CR program is locally managed by the VNGI (International Cooperation Agency of the Association of Netherlands Municipalities) in close cooperation with 4C Foundation and other local partners. BirdsCaribbean provided additional support via the Betty Peterson grant for the equipment used in the Bird Guide Training, whereby 12 St. Maarteners received training to host their own tours.