By Cindy Jackson
October 9, 2019
The final meeting of the Nassau County Beach Community Working Group took place on October 9, 2019 in Commission Chambers. This group was formed in December 2018 to look at beach related ordinances and to make recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners in response to illicit and suspected illegal behavior – primarily at Peters Point.
As County Manager/Attorney Michael Mullin stated, “bad behavior created this.”
Chairman Gil Langley, CEO of the Amelia Island Tourist Development Council, noted that “this has been a challenging committee. Our beaches are a special asset.”
Just a handful of people were in the audience and among those, three individuals rose to speak out against the committees’ recommendation to ban camping on the beach.
Ronald Zurie, who leads the group known as the NightSanders, out of Jacksonville, has been a fixture at many meetings of the working group and remarked that these actions remind him of when, as a young boy, he and his family were forced off of Jacksonville’s beaches as a result of segregation. The NightSanders brochure states “As true NightSanders we have happily endured 20 years as “Pilgrims on a Pilgrimage” to historical American Beach.” Mr. Zurie went on to say, “you are forcing us away from our heritage.”
Butch Osbourne, Director of Operations for the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office, responded by saying, “I don’t think this is a black/white issue . . . “ Osbourne went on to point out that the group led by Lowell Hall (an ex-officio member of the working group), Citizens for the Preservation of Public Beaches, also has a long history of enjoying beach camping.
That sentiment was echoed by Assistant County Manager Taco Pope, when he said, “the disappointment and anger should be more directed to those who have come and taken advantage of our opportunities [available on Nassau County beaches].”
Pope went on to reiterate that this is not the end of the discussion on beach activities. The working group will be making recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners. Recommendations made to the Board of County Commissioners will likely be on the agenda at a November meeting after which workshops will be scheduled and the public hearing process will commence.
Pope did present a one-page summary of possible options.
It is unlikely the BOCC will take a final vote on any proposed changes in 2019.
Editor’s Note: Born in Hagerstown, Maryland, Cindy received her BA in Political Science from Dickinson College. Upon graduation, Cindy began her career on Capitol Hill working as a legislative aide and director. She later became a part of the public relations and lobbying team of the American Iron and Steel Institute and served as director of the office of state legislative affairs for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). Cindy was involved in economic development with the state of Maryland, and served as executive director of Leadership Washington County. As a community volunteer, Cindy participates in numerous volunteer activities serving as a member of Sunrise Rotary, and as board member of Cummer Amelia Board of Directors.