St. Maarten currently lacks protected terrestrial areas, yet the island is home to several areas of remarkable splendor that qualify for the status of protected area. These areas could be made into hillside nature parks because of their sheer natural beauty and the variety of plant life found there.
Emilio Wilson Estate
The Emilio Wilson Estate is located on the western side of the road that runs through Cul de Sac valley to St. Peter and covers about 0.9 km² (90 ha) from the road to the top of Sentry Hill. It has significant cultural and historical values and is the last and best-preserved plantation on the Dutch side of St. Maarten.
The Estate includes remnants of sugar cane plantations (Industry and Golden Rock Plantation) and slavery-related buildings. Other areas of cultural importance include Ebenezer, Union Farm, Madame Estate, Belvedere, Bishop Hill slave cemetery, Cul-de-Sac cemetery and Sentry Hill caves. The caves on Sentry Hill were mostly used as shelters during hurricanes. The top of Sentry Hill is mostly undisturbed forest covered with hilltop vegetation, including a profusion of bromeliads, ferns, mosses and orchids. The higher parts of the estate are dominated by regionally significant semi-evergreen seasonal forest.
The Emilio Wilson Estate is one of the very few areas of St. Maarten that has not been developed. It contains areas of high biological value that are undisturbed. Some of St. Maarten’s endemic plant species such as Lidflower (Calyptranthes boldinghii) and Galactia nummelaria can be found on the trails that pass through the estate to the top of Sentry Hill.
The Emilio Wilson Estate Foundation strives for the protection, conservation and preservation of the natural, cultural and historical heritage of the Emilio Wilson Estate property through the establishment of a terrestrial protected area. The foundation is committed to the preservation and restoration of the historical monuments on the estate, the study of its flora and fauna, the development of sustainable agriculture and aquaculture on the estate as well as educational programmes and a public awareness campaign.
Back Bay is located on the high-energy east coast of St. Maarten and is circled by hills. The area covers approximately 1 km² (100 ha) and has a number of different owners.
Back Bay has been identified as having a special conservation value as it is one of the few places on St. Maarten where no construction has taken place. It is also home to a number of possible historical sites and geological formations. Back Bay has a beach as well as rocky shores with significant intertidal communities, including mussels, chitons, sea urchins, grazing snails, sea stars, hermit crabs, sea anemones and mosses.