Stronger Together: How No Ethanol Fernandina Was Born


Amelia Island is blessed with many volunteer groups protecting its heritage trees and beaches and ensuring turtles are kept in the dark. In addition to the environment, citizens are uniting and forming a larger coalition focused on saving the character and unique sense of place from the blind ambition, greed, and lack of architectural creativity that define some of the city’s commissioners and their developer colleagues.

When Taina Christner heard about the plan to build 12 townhomes on the Tringali single-home parcel in the historic district, she spoke with Kelly Gibson in the city’s planning department. Christner noted the zoning doesn’t allow for this project. Gibson responded, "No, it's a done deal. You can come to the meetings and speak out." Christner said Gibson actually “grabbed my arm and said, ‘I know change is hard.’ So that's when I got involved and started reaching out to all of the neighbors, who started talking to other people, and realized this wasn't allowed.”

New to activism, Christner met Julie Ferreira, a long-time resident who has a rich generational connection to the island, decades of environmental activism, including president of Sierra Club, and an intimate knowledge of the land development codes (LDC). Julie pointed out the sections in the LDC, 1.03.05, and said, "This isn't allowed." Stop the Domino Effect was formed in January 2023 and nearly a year later, in December 2023, after many community informational meetings and donations for legal fees, a judge ruled, “there is no plausible explanation for the City’s erroneous interpretation.”

Celebrating the win was short-lived.

March brought rumblings of a new environmental threat, RYAM's proposed bioethanol plant, which Commissioner Chip Ross confirmed at a city commission meeting.

Christner said, “Julie and I started talking about it, and then Julie reached out to Margaret. We went out for dinner together and talked about it, realizing that it was a big, big issue.”

“Margaret” is Margaret Kirkland, who like Ferreira, has devoted years to protecting the unique environment of Amelia Island. She chaired the Amelia Tree Conservancy and now chairs Conserve Nassau, its mission, “advancing environmental, economic, and social sustainability …creating a community that thrives together.”

Unable to attend the first meeting on March 18, Kirkland went to the second, and was surprised “there were a bunch of people I didn't know.” And she was right.

The neophytes were concerned neighbors who had never gotten involved until Tringali. “I think people are waking up to the fact that they need to do something,” Christner said.

During the initial strategizing dinner, it became clear a new entity was needed, combining the specific scientific expertise and experiences of the three groups’ members.

On April 24, Ferreira posted to her Facebook page: “Three local conservation groups, Nassau County Sierra, Conserve Nassau, and Stop the Domino Effect, have joined together to help lead the community response to RYAM's proposed second generation ethanol processing plant under the name of No Ethanol Fernandina.”

Regarding future group collaborations, Christner hopes they’ll continue working to keep Fernandina “the way it is, and not allow industry or developers to destroy it.”

For more information about these organizations, visit:,,