A successful training session on Sint Maarten expanded the number of trained volunteer hike leaders and increased the island’s eco-tourism capacity. Twelve participants, including tour guides and educators, completed the training, hosted by Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) and funded by Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds (PBCCG). It was held in space donated by Samenwerkende Fondsen Cariben and Resources 4 Community Resilience on April 3rd.
The two-hour session included learning about eight hiking routes and the practicalities of running a hike. EPIC filmed the hikes and created short reference videos that show the routes and describe the natural environment and history linked to the hiking trails. Participants received reference books on plants and animals of Sint Maarten, thanks to Les Fruits de Mer, as well as a hiking guide and reference pamphlets created by EPIC specifically for this training. The training will continue with participants hiking the trails together in the coming weeks.
EPIC’s monthly Sunday morning hikes had regrettably been suspended for nearly two years due to the Covid pandemic but are set to resume mid-May with the new hike leaders. Hikes are free of charge and open to one and all. The hikes will be advertised beforehand through social media and local news outlets. The first hike will be Sunday 15th May. Make sure to follow EPIC on Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date on upcoming hike locations and dates.
The monthly hikes were established in order to increase people’s connection to the outdoors and, by extension, their concern for protecting the environment. The hikes are also an opportunity for participants to join others who enjoy nature, developing a sense of community around this mutual interest. One goal of this training was to make the monthly hikes self-sustaining by empowering participants to take on leadership roles.
St. Maarten’s economy relies almost entirely on tourism. Cultivating the capacity of tour guides to lead hikes for visitors increases ecotourism opportunities and the economic value of natural areas enjoyed by tourists. With their newfound knowledge of these trails, guides can offer unique nature-based experiences for guests while also diversifying and improving the island’s tourism product.
EPIC congratulates the participants on successfully completing the training and looks forward to resuming monthly hikes with this new enthusiastic group of hike leaders.