By Michael Isam
When chairman Walter O’Kon called for a voice vote on a proposal to attach the name “San Pablo Island” to the island land mass between the St Augustine Inlet and Mayport, members of the St Johns County Cultural Resources Review Board just said “no”.
The Review Board listened intently as county staff presented a comprehensive overview of the proposal; put forth by a citizens group seeking to gain support for the San Pablo Island name.
The applicants made a very impressive presentation before the Board; filled with maps that dated back to the 1800′s. Until June 15, 1925, the City of Jacksonville Beach was known as “Pablo Beach”.
The Cultural Resources Review Board voted unanimously, on August 6, 2012, to recommend denial of the naming. During the St Johns County Commission meeting on Tuesday, September 4, 2012, Historic Resources Coordinator Robin Moore told commissioners that adding the “San Pablo” name to these coastal lands is detrimental to the current and historical identity of St Johns County.
The man-made island was created when the swampy marsh crossover at the south end of San Pablo Road was trenched; allowing the Pablo Creek and Tolomato River to connect — forming a navigable north-south waterway.
Paul Weaver said during the public comment period that naming the island “San Pablo” is historically misleading. The name San Pablo is more concentrated in the Jacksonville Beach area to the north and has little historical significance found in St Johns County.
An alternate suggestion presented to the board by SGM Ray Quinn and Bill Dudley proposed that a more appropriate name would be “Veterans Island”; forever honoring the military significance of the island during World War II and veteran service forever.
With nearly 450 years of veteran service, beginning with the first days of Spanish settlers in St Augustine and the French at Fort Caroline, citizens were mustered to protect the settlements.
Quinn and Dudley opined that existence of Jacksonville Naval Air Station and Naval Station Mayport, the 19,000+ veterans in St Johns County and over 100,000 veterans in Duval County, “recommend by its very nature the name Veterans Island”.
Ironically, over 150 years ago, the 10-mile stretch of San Pablo Road to the north and approximately 20 miles of land to the south, were located within the same county; but, today, there is little to unify the St Johns and Duval county land with one name.
While the push of unification might appeal to business owners and land speculators to the north, there is little on the lower two-thirds of the island in St Johns County referring to San Pablo.
Of greater importance, from the discussion and comments before the Review Board, is the use of money from bed taxes generated in St Johns County to market destinations in Duval County. The question to be answered was, “Where is the monetary significance to Vilano Beach and South Ponte Vedra Beach?”
In a quick exit poll of people present, it was determined that the citizen group failed to present convincing evidence of how the lower two-thirds of the island is going to benefit from the proposed name.