Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
September 19, 2019
On September 17, 2019, the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) unanimously authorized spending $11,480 to initiate a planning study with the firm of Coyle & Caron, Inc. for the proposed Schools to Downtown Waterfront Trail. “Trails and Bikeways” was the most frequent choice of City of Fernandina Beach residents responding to the survey question, “What types of parks, recreation facilities, and open spaces are most important to you?” in the 2015 City Parks and Recreation Survey (64 percent).
In 2018, the City of Fernandina was successful in petitioning the FDOT to designate a trail referred to as the Fernandina Beach Segment of the Cumberland to Timucuan Regional Trail, which envisioned a future multi-use bicycle/pedestrian path connecting the City Harbor Marina, north to 14th Street, and south to Peter’s Point as a FGTS component. Trails that the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) designates as segments of Florida Greenways and Trails System (FGTS) are eligible to apply for grant funds though the FDEP Florida Communities Trust Land Acquisition, the Recreational Trails, and Florida Recreation Development Assistance grant programs.
With information gleaned from the approved study, the City of Fernandina Beach may request that Nassau County government submit application to the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) to qualify the proposed Schools to Downtown Waterfront Trail for multi-year FDOT SUN Trail funding.
The study will provide four deliverables:
1. An estimate of probable construction costs for Segment 1 and Segment 2 of the Schools to Downtown Waterfront Trail, as described in the Request for Quote document:
a. Segment 1:
i. From Citrona west on Hickory St. to 9th St. (Alongside school sports fields)
ii. From Hickory north on 9th to Gum (one block)
iii. From 9th west on Gum to 8th
b. Segment 2:
i. From Gum north on 3rd to Cedar
ii. From Cedar to Ash
2. A Study Report that identifies environmental issues that will affect construction of the trail, and provide recommended solutions to these issues.
3. A map and walk through for a public works employee to stake out the Schools to Downtown Waterfront Trail in a manner that visibly informs of the trail route to support public awareness of the project.
4. A physical map and Esri GIS layer of the Schools to Downtown Waterfront Trail.
This effort has been championed by Amelia Island Trail Group. Mike Spino and Mike Pikula represented their organization at the FBCC meeting during which they walked commissioners through the proposed route. City Grants Administrator Lorelei Jacobs has assisted the organization with its grants requests.
Spino thanked the FBCC for its support. He explained the outreach efforts his group has taken to ensure that residents, organizations and businesses along the proposed route have been informed and have had an opportunity to have their concerns addressed. Spino reported that all the people they spoke with were positive about proposed enhanced sidewalks and the trail. The biggest concerns noted were existing drainage problems, especially along South 3rd Street.
Spino reminded commissioners that trails are tools of conservation because they reduce auto traffic and the need for parking. “Trails,” he said, “tie our community together with nature and our neighbors. Every trail is a tree planting opportunity.”
Vice Mayor Len Kreger commended the organization for its extensive outreach operation. He said that the city will also give everyone an opportunity to weigh in on the project in a future public meeting. Commissioner Ross reinforced Spino’s statement on the value of bike trails to a community.
Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.