PHILIPSBURG;--- Dozens of persons, including community organizations came out on Saturday, January 28 from 7 am till afternoon and contributed towards a needed cleanup of the FOGA Salt Factory, which was built in 1862. The ruins of the old salt factory are a protected heritage site and fall under the protection of the Government of Sint Maarten, namely the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport (ECYS). Due to overgrown fauna and pollution, the historical monument was not easily accessible nor visible to the public. The community clean-up was a call to action led by environmental advocate Paul Ellinger in collaboration with author and journalist Ralph Cantave. Ellinger, who is also a nature and landscape photographer, visited the site in the past weeks and was astounded at the unsightly state of this historical ruin. This resulted in a viral Facebook post, inviting persons to participate in a much-needed tidying up of the area. Over 50 people came to assist and a total of eight trips to the dump were made. Most of the debris besides grass and the pruned mangroves were: styrofoam, plastic, glass bottles, and household goods.
On receiving notice of this community-minded initiative via a letter on Thursday, January 26,
2023, Minister ECYS, drs. Rodolphe Samuel immediately invited Mr. Cantave and Mr. Paul for a
meeting with him and the Department of Culture. The objective of the meeting was two-fold,
firstly to discuss the laws in place that covers accessibility to all heritage sites and secondly to receive a more detailed explanation of the objective of the scheduled clean-up.
Both men were aware of the protection laws, nonetheless, during the meeting Ellinger
and Cantave explained that their reason was mainly based on their love for nature and the preservation of the island’s cultural heritage. Taking their genuine expression of interest in making a valuable contribution via this cleanup initiative, the Minister supported the initiative and stated that he will collaborate with Ellinger and Cantave for the second face of the clean-up. Further dialogue will be held moving forward between the initiators and the Minister. Following the meeting, both parties jointly visited the site before Saturday’s community venture.
Minister Samuel emphasizes that in FOGA ‘s present status, it is of tantamount importance that people visiting the site exercise great safety precautions and that a multitude of people does not all at once access the ruin; taking its ecological changes and delicate state into consideration. Details of the second phase are forthcoming and the community will be informed.
Saturday’s event was the first phase of the cleanup of FOGA, in which the site is now visible and easily accessible to the community and visitors. The clean-up was done to also
raise awareness on the importance of preserving and maintaining our cultural heritage as well
as to educate persons about historical structures that contribute to the history of St. Maarten. Ellinger and Cantave would like to thank the public for their participation and donations, as well as Belair Beach Hotel, Carrefour, West Indies Landscape Company (WILCO), Fast Professional Transportation, ONE SXM Foundation, the Ombudsman of St. Maarten office, the Lions Club, Bible Baptist Church, and Minister ECYS, for contributing items and refreshments to make the clean up a success.