Friends of the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve spokesperson, Teri Webley, informed local Historic City News reporters that the volunteer citizens group would not support “Alternative C” as proposed in the Fort Matanzas National Monument Management Plan.
Proclaiming that there comes a time when “doing the right thing” prevails over convenience, the Board of Directors met today to discuss the General Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement for Fort Matanzas National Monument, and decided that this is one of those times.
Historic City News previously published the announcement from Superintendent Gordie Wilson that public meetings will be held soliciting comments regarding the draft management plan for the Fort Matanzas Monument which extends to and includes the high beach south of the Matanzas ramp.
The meetings will convene on July 23 and 24 at 6:00 pm; and will be held at the Lohman Auditorium at the Whitney Lab for Marine Bioscience, located at 9505 Ocean Shore Boulevard in Marineland.
The Board of Directors said in a statement distributed to reporters that, “while we are sensitive to the potential impact our decisions can have on our membership and the surrounding community, we believe we owe it to our membership and to the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve, to stay true to our mission and to protect our waterways.”
The Friends is a private non-profit citizen support organization established to support and enhance environmental education, stewardship of natural and cultural resources, and scientific research of the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve through volunteer initiatives, citizen involvement, and community partnerships.
The Board said that, after much deliberation, they have created a statement that will be presented at the meetings.
The Friends of Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (“Friends”), which represent 552 members, support “Alternative B” as presented in the General Management Plan and Environmental Impact Stated for Fort Matanzas National Monument.
The waters on the estuary side of the Matanzas Inlet are within the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (“Research Reserve”) boundaries.
Research conducted by the Research Reserve staff has shown that the water quality of the Matanzas Inlet is some of the most pristine in Northeast Florida.
The Friends agree that “Alternative B” creates the widest range of beneficial uses of the environment without degradation or risk of other undesirable consequences due to the continued prohibition against driving on the beach south of the Matanzas ramp.
The preservation of the water quality is important to the Friends because it serves the interests of the Reserve’s research and also enhances the quality of water-based recreational activities, including, boating and fishing which take place in the estuary adjacent to the Monument.
Additionally, “Alternative B”, will increase environmental interpretation, which will create enhanced educational opportunities for visitors to understand the area’s natural environment.
The Friends do not support “Alternative C” as proposed in the Fort Matanzas National Monument Management Plan.
The Friends do support the variety of existing beach experiences a visitor can have within the boundaries of the Research Reserve and in St. Johns County.
There are 16.7 miles of beaches available for visitor access by motor vehicle in St. Johns County.
The Friends do not support “Alternative C” and its potential to allow for beach driving at the Monument due to the adjacent estuary’s high water quality, the unique and changing coastal ecosystem at the Matanzas Inlet and the potential for negative effects on wildlife and public safety.