Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
April 4, 2019 4:44 p.m.

Ruts caused by beach parking at Sadler Road Access

The Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) passed on First Reading at their April 2, 2019 Regular Meeting Ordinance 2019-09 which prohibits parking on the beach at the Sadler Road Beach Access between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.  Commissioner Phil Chapman added an amendment, which was which was approved with the ordinance to limit parking on the beach to 4 WD (wheel drive) vehicles.

The ordinance will not take effect unless it is passed following a Public Hearing at Second and/or Final Reading.

Commissioners spent about ten minutes discussing problems resulting from unmonitored beach parking/driving at night including damage to the beach and dunes.  

Commissioner Chip Ross reminded the public that the City Manager has the authority to set hours for beach parking without benefit of the proposed ordinance.  He also stated that while he is opposed to beach driving, he is concerned that limiting beach parking to 4 WD vehicles will mean that many more vehicles will need to find parking off the beach.  He expressed a need for a parking plan.

Eric Hatten

Eric Hatten expressed his frustration with what he sees as the increasing number of rules being added to use of the beach.  He said, “It’s almost gotten to where you have to bring a lawyer with you to make sure you are following all the rules.”  He agreed with Ross about 4WD vehicles, adding that those are the vehicles that churn up the sand in which other vehicles get stuck.  He also cited issues with homeowners’ encroachment of public right-of-ways along Fletcher Avenue with boulders and riprap, adding to the difficulty of finding parking.

FBPD Chief James Hurley was asked to weigh in.  He reported that in season at least one vehicle per day gets stuck in the sand and needs to be towed.  He said that he has seen recreational vehicles and a school bus stranded.  But he agreed with Hatten who said that 4 WD vehicles do considerable damage in churning up sand.  He added that some of the sand churning is done intentionally so the 4WD drivers can tow people off the beach for a fee.

The State Park at the south end of Amelia Island requires vehicles to be 4WD equipped.

Commissioners agreed with the Chief that many people mistakingly assume all wheel drive vehicles equate to 4 WD vehicles.

Suanne Thamm 4Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.

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Teri Springer
Teri Springer (@guest_54793)
3 years ago

Someone PLEASE explain to me why a school bus was parked on the beach??? Last I checked there was already a sign at Sadler Rd. that said 4WD only for on beach parking.

chuck hall
chuck hall (@guest_54797)
3 years ago

Yet another right being stripped from the citizens.

David Howard
David Howard(@comdh2aol-com)
3 years ago

I don’t own any city property at this time, however I paid city taxes for many years,I was chairman of the TDC for four years and a past County Commissioner. I do go to the beach every day and know the crowded conditions, and am alarmed of the future use of the beach as more and more development comes to our county. There has been arguments from adjacent beach property owners for the past 30 years or more about safe driving, churned up sand, drug and drinking, ect. As I see it from a long time beach user our problem is lack of beach parking as well as some control (we now have two time full county officers watching the beach in the county but few arrests) not more and more restrictive laws.. There is little or no trash left on the beach that isn’t picked up by our present clean up crews….I know it is a knee jerk reaction to say we need more restrictions, more laws, ect. But from my point of view why take away one of the best attractions the island has for local beach users and visitors for a few folks that probably haven’t lived here for that long, but have loud voices to constantly complain. I hope that both the county and city commissioners think of the folks that have used the beach for so many years as well as the people with disabilities that can only access our beach by parking. I well remember the lawsuit against the county under the disability act which cost the county a ton of money…..if someone sued the city for the same reason that would bring a whole new prospective to the present city council. David Howard

Terry Jones
Terry Jones (@guest_54801)
3 years ago

i have an idea—why don’t we just prohibit the use of the beach period & close all of the accesses so that those who own beach frontage will now have private beaches; but remember they too will not be allowed to ‘use’ the beach———-while we r at it will someone tell me why i never heard of all of these costs & problems with downtown water front when it was primarily shrimp boats?? we keep prissing up & restricting for certain groups what use to be this island it will become unrecognizable to all of us———& for 30 years there has been a cry to stop ‘uncontrolled’ destruction of trees & wet lands yet the loss still goes on———–is this typical of other island communities?? i don’t know; all i know is that amelia island use to be SPECIAL—-

robert riegler
robert riegler (@guest_54806)
3 years ago

Greaqt comments, the best is right before mine…… close the entire beach, ban all 4WD’s allow a few beachfront “mouth pieces” to control the Masses????. Hummmm when they bought were they deaf and blind as beach driving was here long before them.

Perhaps the current trend to make it “safe” and save ourselves from ourselves( beachwalkovers and the fear of BS Lawyer Lawsuits and yes, more engineering studies) should be to declare their ocean front homes “Property of The People”, have them move out buldose these homes and save the dunes from manmade development of anykind. Bet they’d like that~~~~not.

The beach should be open to all. Enough of trumped up stupid BS about beach driving with a candy coating of “safty”. I drive the county beach on the south end most every week and there is zero “police presence”. None is needed and there are no “problems” with noise, drinking, ruts,etc.. The problem is The Bubble People” have arrived on Amelia Island and they want everything perty…. for them.

Freedom is taken away in small bits and pieces in the guise of “safty”. Be very careful what you wish for. Oh and sorry if there are any typo’s as I am running to the door to go work and make $$ to pay for all this BS.

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