New Land for Amelia Island, FL, Greenway
FERNANDINA BEACH: A magnificent six-acre parcel on Amelia Island has been protected from development by the Trust for Public Land (TPL). Located in historic Fernandina Beach, the six-acre site was destined for development as a new residential subdivision. Instead, the Trust for Public Land, working with the City, purchased the property on March 21. TPL will lease the property to the city while the city is working to secure the necessary funding to purchase the property from TPL.
The parcel is located a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean. The property to the north, east and south has all been developed as single-family residences. The property runs to Egans Creek and includes one of the few sand dunes left along the beach.
This standout property will become part of the Egans Creek Greenway, a 270-acre nature preserve open to the public for passive recreational activities. Land for the Greenway has been purchased over the past five years with some $2.5 million in state funds. Gopher tortoises, a species of special concern in Florida, are known to live in the dunes.
According to City Manager Andy Barton, the city’s only hope of securing the property as part of the Greenway was if TPL could step in to keep it from being developed. “Thanks to TPL, the land will be preserved while the city finds the funding to purchase it outright,” he said.
Fortunately, that funding could become a reality in April when city voters decide on a $6 million bond referendum, a portion of which is earmarked for the Egans Creek project. Susan Grandin, TPL’s project manager staffing the Jacksonville office pointed out that, “across the country, voters have overwhelmingly supported bonds and other public funding mechanisms in order to preserve rapidly disappearing natural lands. In fact, in the November 2000 general election, nationwide, voters passed $7.7 billion worth of bonds and sales tax increases in order to fund land acquisition and preservation. Based upon that precedent, we have every reason to believe that the residents of Fernandina Beach know just how fortunate they are to live in such a beautiful place, and would be willing to preserve a portion of what makes it so beautiful by supporting the bond referendum.”
Donald Nabors’ property borders on the creek. He grew up on Amelia Island, and is elated that the site will be preserved. “Egans Creek is the last remaining refuge for wild animals on the island,” says Nabors. “You walk into the woods and it takes you into another world. I have traveled this island all my life. This is one of the few places you can still see wildlife and the island like it used to be.” Located on the southeastern end of the Egans Creek Greenway, the site will provide Greenway visitors access to the Atlantic Ocean. The Greenway is home to many bird species, including blue herons, white egrets and red-shouldered hawks, as well as otters and bobcats.
Founded in 1972, the Trust for Public Land specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for public use and enjoyment. Operating in Florida since 1975, TPL has partnered with private landowners, communities, and government agencies to protect more than 200 special places throughout state. The Wall Street Journal’s Smart Money magazine recently named TPL the nation’s most efficient large conservation charity, based on the percentage of funds dedicated to programs. TPL is on the web at www.tpl.org.