By Bob Allison, 2-1-23
City Citizens who have read the Waterfront Plan I provided to the City back in 2017 know that I have presented a well reasoned case for the relocation of the City’s bulkheads to create more usable land on the City’s waterfront. Downtown needs more green space west of Front Street. By installing new bulkheads at the marina’s edge to replace the existing bulkheads that are old and failing, several acres of new green space can be added to the City’s waterfront. All that is required is filling in behind the new bulkheads.
Click to read Mr. Allison’s downloadable, printable PDF COMMON SENSE WATERFRONT PLAN
The objections to this presented by Commissioner Chip Ross in his recent media post titled “Waterfront Opinion Differs” were little more than his own personal opinions. Unfortunately, these opinions are not supported by facts. First, the Commissioner described the land under the water at the marina as “Sovereign Lands of the State of Florida” which they are not. Second, he went on to state ”Many years ago, it may have been possible to fill wetlands….however it requires intense permitting from the Saint Johns River Management District, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The filling of wetlands is prohibited by the Fernandina Beach Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code.”
Commissioner Ross is correct to state the filling of wetlands requires a permit but he might want to take a quick look at Rule 62-340 of the Florida Administrative Code to learn the definition of a “wet land”. He would discover that in the absence of “a prevalence of vegetation described as hydrophytic”, no land in the State of Florida can be legally determined to be a wetland.
The single most important City property for the creation of a true waterfront park is the tidal City owned land between Centre and Ash Streets or the property south of Brett’s to south of the boat ramp. This property is not “sovereign lands of the State of Florida” as Commissioner Ross has previously claimed. Check out the picture above and see if you can identify any “prevalence of vegetation” that would classify this property as a “wetland” which Commissioner Ross has claimed requires “intense permitting” to disturb. No folks….this is no wetland. This is a mud bank and it sits squarely in the very middle of the most valuable property owned by the City of Fernandina Beach.
City citizens might want to communicate to their City Commissioners their preference for how they want to see this property used……mud bank or City Park. My opinion is that there is not one single good reason to preserve and protect this mud bank. At low tide it actually stinks. A new bulkhead can be installed alongside the marina. Fill can be placed behind this new bulkhead and City can see nearly an acre of new green space added to the City’s waterfront. With a little landscape and a few shade trees installed, this is the perfect location for the waterfront park citizens have been clamoring about for decades.
Bob Allison, a resident of Fernandina Beach, is the father of the FB City Marina
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal Florida.