Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
June 26, 2015 10:45

Access 1Although it was not on the agenda for the June 26, 2015 Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) Special Meeting, City Manager Joe Gerrity raised matters associated with city beach access 33 toward the end of the meeting. He reported that he had just received an email from Baxter Hayes the adjoining property owner at 3280 S. Fletcher Avenue (see below) offering to build a handicapped accessible beach access at his own expense. The owner will obtain essential permits and transfer ownership of the walkover to the city. Gerrity added that nothing prohibits building a parking area at that access in the future.

Baxter Hayes

Commissioner Tim Poynter reminded commissioners that in earlier city Capital Improvement Plans the city had allocated $100-125K to build such an access. Poynter said that by assuming this project, Hayes will save the city the same amount of money. He commended the property owner for having turned the contentious situation into a win-win for the city. Poynter and other commissioners expressed regret that the property owner has been vilified for landscaping the beach access approach when he had requested and received permission from the city to do so.

Mayor Ed Boner explained that while there is a sign designating Beach Access 33, one had never been constructed there.  In the past there was a path used to access the beach that many residents remember.

Vice Mayor Johnny Miller said that he has been “working behind the scenes” with people to resolve the situation. He asked that at a future meeting the FBCC discuss limiting the city manager’s ability to make decisions that could result in restricting access to the beach without more public input.

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Marlene Chapman
Marlene Chapman (@guest_38799)
7 years ago

I will admit that I have been one of the most outspoken and aggressive citizens to speak about this access. I will not apologize for that fact as we all know that I will fight to the end when I feel there is injustice, especially when it comes to my family. I will however let everyone know that I have responded to Vice Mayor Miller’s post on FB stating my feelings of thanks to Mr Hayes for his offer and my prayers that this will come to fruition sooner than later. I only wish, as others, that this had been handled differently by Mr Gerrity and that in the future the CM has to answer to someone prior to making such impactive decisions! Again, my thanks to Mr Hayes for his offer and to Commissioner Miller for his backing!

Steve Crounse
Steve Crounse (@guest_38830)
7 years ago

Marlene, Thanks for raising the flag on this issue. and thanks to the Fernandina Observer for covering this story. Social Media,and a Grass roots response made this happen. I’m delighted that an ADA approved Roll-Over will be Constructed at access #33 Hopefully a couple handicapped parking spot. The rest of us can walk. Thank you Mr. Hays. This is a Wonderful day for all.

Dave Lott
Dave Lott (@guest_38800)
7 years ago

A generous offer for sure.

Robert Warner
Robert Warner (@guest_38809)
7 years ago

Sometimes we learn. I just got more confidence in good works by good people.

John Stillwell
John Stillwell (@guest_38811)
7 years ago

There is angle here that is not yet understood. The owner already has his own private access to the beach.
Why would he offer to construct another on city property at his expense?

Dave Lott
Dave Lott (@guest_38813)
7 years ago
Reply to  John Stillwell

His letter implies that removal of his access will help simplify the permit approval process. Personally, I would have retained my private access as there are plenty of examples where public and private accesses are right next to each other.
Regardless, there will need to be a detailed legal agreement with the City to clearly outline each parties rights and responsibilities.

Doug Jones
Doug Jones (@guest_38826)
7 years ago
Reply to  Dave Lott

Dave, to simplify this. … the City could allow Mr Hayes to donate the funds for the ADA approved Boardwalk with the City being a co-signer (as owner) on the permit and a simple written agreement between him and the City for his donation. If we really want an ADA access, it should have a paved walk/access from South Fletcher with a small viewing/sitting area, since most wheelchairs can’t navigate the beach. I further recommend that it be lined up with the the center of Oklawaha Avenue and that a bike rack be placed at the beginning of the boardwalk (since there is no automotive parking currently anticipated).
Just my two cents worth.

Steve Crounse
Steve Crounse (@guest_38844)
7 years ago
Reply to  Dave Lott

Dave I walked the property yesterday, the old walk-over is in pretty rough shape, and it meander across the lot. doesn’t match up with the Home. The best place for the old one is at the land fill. I’m pleased, it seems like everybody wins. Perhaps the Cities monies already allocated for a walk-over can now be utilized at another access location.

Marlene Chapman
Marlene Chapman (@guest_38837)
7 years ago

First…Thank you Steve for your support and help…we all stuck to our beliefs and we end up with what was right for all! I’m still hoping that maybe we can all help with the build if needed. Doug, your thoughts on what to do is great up to the part of the wheelchairs. Our daughter and son in law are both in chairs and their burning desire is to get to the water. With that in mind, we’ve worked with Parks and Rec, 8 Flags Playscapes, Vice Mayor Miller and many others and now it is in the budget(hopefully)to have beach/water chair and Mobi mats which allow anyone who finds traversing the sand difficult to get to the water, to do so safely and easily:) There is such hope now after so much despair about losing this access….again, my thanks to Mr Hayes….I’d love to meet with him about this!

Ross Gass
Ross Gass (@guest_38909)
7 years ago

As this email is the first correspondence, and since this gentleman has been so generous in his offer, I can only assume he has the best of intentions and that more details will be ironed out (that benefit everyone) as the project progresses.
I sure am glad this new resident is more accommodating and generous than a lot of our current citizens. What a sad, sorry lot that came out of the wood work to vilify and speak ill of this gentleman. Thank goodness he took the higher road than the one chosen by a number of very opinionated city residents.

Marlene Chapman
Marlene Chapman (@guest_38914)
7 years ago

Better to be opinionated than to sit by and not question things that may be out of line. No one “came out of the woodwork to vilify and speak ill of” Mr Hayes, I believe we went on what we heard that the CM had done…..we keep our eyes and ears open so as to make sure our island maintains it’s charm which draws people from all over the world! We do know there are some people who think they are above any suspicion of improprieties, don’t we? Mr Hayes has made a very generous offer that we pray will come to fruition and I do believe that we’ve thanked him, openly and honesty and he understands how this all came as a shock! If this entire process was handled more openly and honestly by the CM…..none of this would have occured! With that said, on to the new access for everyone….

Ross Gass
Ross Gass (@guest_38968)
7 years ago


Cheryl Duttwiler
Cheryl Duttwiler(@cbduttcomcast-net)
7 years ago
Reply to  Ross Gass

Might be better if you took the “higher road”, as well!

terry jones
terry jones (@guest_39489)
7 years ago

for those of u who do not know the reason & importance that these beach accesses where established & how they where spaced perhaps u need to do some research & ask some of of the older residents & especially fishermen——mr. hayes may have thought it was not such a big deal until all of the protest where raised—-those that brought it to light r not to be ridiculed but thanked & mr hayes is to be forgiven as his gesture to make amends is exemplary

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