Fight to save trees in Amelia City fails – An opinion

Submitted by
Michael Spicer

Trees being removed at AIA and Gerbing for Flash Food expansion
Trees being removed at AIA and Gerbing for Flash Food expansion

I am sad and I am mad. Today, the trees at the Flash Foods at the roundabout by Harris Teeter have been destroyed. Some of those trees were estimated to be two to three hundred years old; all gone in a mad dash on this national holiday which commemorates the life of Martin Luther King.

Big Trees 4






It’s quite amazing to see the carnage that a fleet of heavy equipment can do. In just a few hours the cutting and heavy lifting was done and the trucks that were lined up to haul away the remains of these once majestic examples of our natural heritage were gone. Just think; some of those trees were just little saplings before the birth of George Washington in 1732.

Big Trees 5It’s seems odd to me that if any of those trees had been homes built back in the 1700’s, I guess they’d be on the National Register and protected as part of our valued history. Or had they been symbols of man’s grand technology, like wax cylinders of the first phonograph recordings, I suppose they’d also be protected in a museum for all to see.


On the other hand, if provided by nature and the Almighty for man’s use, then it must beBig Trees 2 okay to destroy whatever, as long as it is on your land, or so some would have you believe.

As I sadly stood there by the side of the road and watched as these majestic creatures were felled, I saw the faces of many drivers passing by, looking on in disbelief. Some pulled over to ask what was happening, and surprisingly, some drove by without seeming to even notice that anything unusual was happening at all.

I’d like to believe that nobody would think of destroying these beautiful works of nature on their land. Yet, groves of old growth trees around the nation are protected because they are rare and would have been logged completely if it were not for the intervention of those dedicated to protecting them before it was too late.

Unlike the city of Fernandina Beach, Nassau County has no tree ordinance. Most people in the county thus far believe that governance over trees should be left to landowners to do with as they please without any need for review by the county. But that doesn’t make it right that trees such as these should be left unprotected.

I expect Flash Foods had all the permission they needed to do what they did, and that’s my point and why I am also mad. If someone wants to make an improvement on their land, permits are needed that regulate what and how it should be done. Rural parts of the county need different zoning rules than urban areas that take into consideration the community that surrounds a piece of property. Try putting a landfill where Flash Foods is and see what happens.

A tree ordinance needs to be a part of the permitting process, especially in an urban area. It would have likely prevented this clear cutting from happening. I’m not suggesting that no trees should have been cut, thus preventing the improvements that Flash desired. But I am saying that a review by the county, guided by a process to save as many healthy, old growth trees as possible, would have been preferred and beneficial to the trees and the community.

No landscaping plan that Flash Foods may do will ever come close to replacing what has been forever lost. But I am hopeful that if enough people feel as I do today, then we will encourage our county commissioners to work towards developing a code that will define a vision for preserving the beautiful resources of our community for today and for future generations to enjoy.

Editor’s Note:   In response to a number of emails from concerned citizens Flash Foods indicated, “This project has been very challenging and has been a three year endeavor. We have done everything possible to save as many trees as we could by using professional landscape architectures and working with your local governing authorities and the Florida Department of Transportation.”

About the author: Michael Spicer has degrees in Geology and Anthropology, has experience in the energy and insurance industries and is a veteran, a musician, world traveler, environmental fine art photographer, and registered independent. He lives in Fernandina Beach with his wife, artist and author, Carol Beck.

January 21, 2013 10:25 p.m.

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Ernie Davis
Ernie Davis(@erniedavissbcglobal-net)
11 years ago

If they can cut those oaks down, they can cut down other moss-draped live oaks in Amelia City. It ought to be unthinkable. There’s no remediation for that kind of loss.

gerry clare
gerry clare(@gerrycclaregmail-com)
11 years ago

There actually is a county tree ordinance in effect on the island/county area.

Ron Lindhart
Ron Lindhart(@lindhartgmail-com)
11 years ago

To make it politically feasable, an attempt at a tree ordinance should be limited to the non-city portion of Amelia Island itself.

Mike Boyle
Mike Boyle(@mikemikeboyle-org)
11 years ago

As Gerry Clare noted, there is a county tree ordinance for the county portion of the island. The company (Flash Foods) had to obtain a variance to cut the trees in question. I tried to get a county-wide tree ordinance in 2007 -2008, but ran into strong opposition from the Westside, even though we exempted tree farming and most privately owned trees. We did get a landscaping ordinance passed which covers commercial development, and even that was tough to pass. I wish we could have done more.