By Mike Lednovich
A “harmonization plan” for all seven of the beach parks on Amelia Island — including three in the city and partially funded by the Tourist Development Council — was amended and approved by the city commission Tuesday.
The city parks that would be impacted are North Beach, Main Beach and Seaside Park. The TDC beach harmonization plan has received negative feedback — including several speakers Tuesday — for catering to tourists and not meeting the needs of city residents.
The TDC designer EDSA’s conceptual plan document states “The harmonization effort is to create a cohesive group of beach parks serving infrastructural and aesthetic purposes. The infrastructure at all beach parks – structures, facilities, way-finding, pedestrian comfort facilities, etc – are outdated and/or missing from both the city of Fernandina Beach and Nassau County beach parks.”
Commissioner Chip Ross successfully added an amendment to the harmonization resolution “that the city commission in public meetings will have the opportunity to approve design elements and construction and all improvements at city-owned beach parks prior to Nassau County expending Tourist Development tax dollars on city park design and improvements.
“I want to make it perfectly clear that we’re not approving that (EDSA) concept plan and that we’re willing to have the opportunity to work with the county to get the things the city as a whole wants and not embrace that plan as written,” Ross said.
The amended resolution passed 5-0.
EDSA’s design at the city beach parks came under heavy criticism by both citizens and city commissioners when it was unveiled in 2022.
Several speakers addressed the commission and urged them to reject the resolution.
“I’m concerned with the objectivity of the study (plans) done by the TDC,” said Dale Spencer. “The agency creates more tourism. Their objectivity is on making more tourism. We’re going to get to the point where we just can’t function. We can’t get around (because of the tourists) because it’s all jammed up.”
Susan Donovan lives near North Beach Park and expressed concerns about new parking spaces and other additions harming the natural beach habitat.
“We were told by the city employees that this is a protected natural habitat that non-native species cannot be encroached on,” she said. “We also ask for the opportunity to make sure in the future planning that there is a buffer where hundreds of people will be walking.”
Mayor Bradley Bean said it was an opportunity for the city to work with Nassau County – which controls bed tax revenues collected by the TDC – to use a portion of bed tax funds.
“This is a win, win, win all the way around,” Bean said.