Washington Slagbaai National Park - MANAGEMENT
Washington Slagbaai’s natural resources include cliffs and beaches along the ocean, saltpans, cactus and other dry-climate plants, and two natural wells. The Park hosts a great variety of lizards and birds, too. For more information about nature in the Park, click to our Flora, Fauna, and Geology sections.
The Park is also attractive to non-native fauna such as feral pigs, cats, and even dogs; non-native plants that can become a serious problem are mainly vines, including the rubber vine (Cryptostegia grandiflora). These intruders put at risk the natural balance of the ecosystem, and can threaten native species with extinction. In fact, such invasive species are the Park’s main issue regarding natural resources. Controlling the population of invasive species in order to restore and maintain the natural balance of the Park is the main goal of Park management in this area.
The establishment of monitoring programs to collect data for proper management decisions is another goal of Park management; for more information see our Research and Monitoring section. Lack of funding has prevented us from setting up such programs -- so far.
As a former home of the first inhabitants of Bonaire and two of the most productive former plantations, Washington Slagbaai National Park is very rich in cultural and historic resources. It is the Park management’s goal to restore and protect all these resources and use them to educate the people of Bonaire as well as our visitors about Bonairean culture and history. This is currently being done through museum exhibits and informative signage. The Park has been successful thanks to grants provided from institutions like Prins Bernhard Cultuur Fonds (Prince Bernhard Culture Funds) and Stichting DOEN (roughly translated, the Let’s Get It Done Foundation).
Infrastructure and facilities
The Park has approximately 75 km (46 miles) of dirt roads with a few cement sections, 7 historic buildings, 6 new buildings and approximately 15 km (9 miles) of fence. The maintenance of all these assets, especially the roads, has been the main challenge for Park management. The costs of such maintenance could be lowered by upgrading critical sections of the dirt roads to cement, and by building a water drainage system to reduce the erosion that washes away dirt roads in the rainy season. Ironically, we don’t have the funds to implement these money-saving improvements yet; our grant applications have so far been unsuccessful.
Maintenance of the buildings and the fence also take funding and staff time, keeping the Park management from other important duties like nature protection and management.
The Park has sufficient maintenance gear but lacks equipment for monitoring and exotic species control. The most urgent equipment needs currently are monitoring equipment and a third vehicle. Securing funding or other sources for such equipment is part of the Washington Slagbaai National Park Management Plan.
As of June 2007, the Park staff consists of 9 people: 1 manager, 1 chief ranger, 2 rangers, 2 assistant rangers and 3 maintenance employees. In 2003 a ranger course was implemented and we have properly-trained staff for the tasks we carry out. Unfortunately, our staff is too small to carry out all the necessary tasks to properly manage the park. By the end of 2008 we hope to have at least one more ranger, and training in data collecting techniques.
The Park welcomes about 23,000 visitors per year. Park staff is in charge of entries and exits, and patrol the entire Park to ensure that all visitors get through safely and also that they comply with the rules and regulations. Visitors enjoy many different activities within the Park including snorkeling, SCUBA diving, bird watching, mountain biking, hiking, kayaking, museum visits, and fishing.
Park staff carries out most of the projects that develop Washington Slagbaai Park into the model park that we want to become. In the last 5 years we have carried out more than 20 projects, small and large, in many different areas. A few of these projects are:
Park Administration is carried out by the Accounting Department of the Park’s management body, STINAPA Bonaire. This takes a large burden from Park management, allowing more time for in-the-Park matters.