When the St Johns County commission met in public session this morning, they heard comments from residents, pro and con, regarding the National Park Service’ plan for future management of Fort Matanzas National Monument; including driving on beaches between the ramp and southern point at the Matanzas Inlet.
The Department of Interior has indicated that the National Park Service already favors a specific management plan, identified as “Plan B”, of their Draft General Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement for Fort Matanzas National Monument.
As part of their responsibility to hold public hearings prior to implementation of the plan, they have come to the local board for input on three management plan alternatives, two of which will prohibit operation of motorized vehicles on the south end beaches. The 60-day comment period for the Draft will end on August 24, 2012.
The third plan, identified as “Plan C”, is the only option provided that allows driving as part of the federal management plan, which will govern operations at Fort Matanzas over the next 20 years.
A dozen or so public speakers addressed the board; including residents, representatives for environmental groups, and commissioner-elect Bill McClure who lives at Crescent Beach. Discussion between board members, the county attorney and county administrator added to public comments, ate up the majority of the morning session until the late lunch break.
Commissioner Ron Sanchez, a St Johns County native, was on point; saying, “The federal government told us their choice and asked us for our choice, so, I think we should give it to them.”
When the other commissioners seemed interested in following County Administrator Michael Wanchick’s suggestion that the commissioners not choose one of the three options offered, but rather create their own suggestion, as Jay Morris said “maybe its B+ or C-“, Sanchez made his point clear, “I don’t want my name associated with any plan other than Plan C.”
No resolution was reached to adopt a single plan. Wanchick was instructed to write a letter, hopefully by tomorrow, that includes support for beach driving, but addresses concerns addressed by members of the Audubon Society and Sierra Club to provide protected areas for sea turtles, least terns, and other species, as well as access for disabled beach goers, while protecting pedestrians who share the beach.
If all of that can be accomplished, Wanchick will make a response for the Board of County Commissioners before Friday’s deadline.
Read more about the plan at: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/projectHome.cfm?parkId=378&projectId=11093