A Plea for Action on the Waterfront Park

By Suanne Thamm

Dear City Commissioners:

Yours is not an easy or financially rewarding job. But the exercise of your duties as public officials is serious and impactful for the health and prosperity of Fernandina Beach now and into the future. Now is one of those times when you must end discussion and act on the waterfront park plans.
Everyone will not be happy with your decision. But when are FB citizens ever completely happy with any action that involves change? Time and time again good plans, whether from citizen committees or consultants, have been left to die in the wilderness because a small group of citizens oppose them. That is exactly why you have inherited the mess on the waterfront. Earlier commissions did not have the guts to face down the complainers and say it is time to get this done.
We have had enough studies about downtown parking. We do not have a parking problem; we have a walking problem. The lot at 2nd and Broome never has more than a couple of cars in it, and I suspect even those may belong to folks visiting neighbors. There is no place downtown to site a parking garage, so unless folks want to shuttle in from a remote location, that idea should not be seriously considered.
The waterfront saga has been playing out for at least my 30 years in this city and probably more. We seem to get tantalizingly close to action, but incoming torpedos from special interest groups and those who feel that the entire area should be turned into one big parking lot blow everything up. It reminds me of the Greek mythology king named Sisyphus, who was punished by the gods to keep pushing a boulder up a steep hill only to have it roll back down once it got close to the top.
I ask you to recall the fuss over the design for the airport terminal and how design opponents never let fail an opportunity to mock it and call for new plans. Once construction began most of the noise disappeared because people saw that it was being well received by the flying public, the state, and visitors. The same thing will happen with the waterfront park: once the city breaks ground and people see that it is really going to happen, much of the noise will evaporate.
Complicating the decision-making right now is the looming election season during which each of you except Chip Ross is running for something. Please be bold and move ahead on the park. You will get more votes for doing so than kicking the can down the long and winding road once more.
Does the current design have all my “druthers?” Of course not. But the current design is minimalist in nature, meaning lower construction and maintenance costs for the city to bear. I give it two thumbs up and say to you: get a move on!

Editor’s note: The author addressed this letter to the five city commissioners, but it came into our hands, and with her permission we are sharing its common sense with the wider Fernandina Beach community. Ms. Thamm was a long-time city hall reporter who was always fair, but never was fooled by anyone, We wish she would come out of retirement more often. 

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9 days ago

I’m all in for an appealing, conservative waterfront reno to enjoy the marina and boardwalk.

How is this compatible with appending a RYAM ethanol refinery in addition to their paper mill [asthma- triggering] stench we currently have? No one enjoys a park stroll when it smells like skunk downtown. Particularly if the stench was “doubled down” if RYAM’s proposal to build a prohibited by city charter chemical manufacturing refinery is approved by the city?

Trusted Member
9 days ago

The Achilles heel of the CRA is flooding. Building the wall should have been the highest priority when the CRA was created in 2005. Diverting money to anything else is a mistake.

Betsie Huben
Noble Member
Betsie Huben(@betsie-huben)
9 days ago

“If you build it, they will come.” And they will be glad you had the vision and the courage to do it.

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