Bill McClure, District 3
St Johns County Board of Commissioners
Memorial Day Weekend was one of the craziest at the beach. More people were upset than I have ever seen. From the Butler Boat Ramp closing without much notice, to 4×4 only signs at the beach ramps, to cars parking all along A1A, to pedestrians almost getting hit on A1A. It was crazy. Whew, I need to rant so let me digress for a moment…
Many of you know I live at the beach and have been coming to the beach in St Augustine-Crescent area since I was just a little boy.
Everything about the beach is getting frustrating now. I fear a shift in tourism is coming if we don’t do something. Hey, as a teenager in the 80’s, I remember driving on the beach in my 1968 Pontiac Lemans Convertible. That was cool, and was much better than in the back of my parents Pontiac station wagon (the one with the back window and rear facing seats) we called “the green machine”. I even remember always paying a few bucks to get on the beach to help pay for the beach cleanup, safety, and the very large road grader that was always on the beach making sure that the ramps and driving lanes had hard packed sand so cars wouldn’t get stuck. That machine was awesome and many people used to actually clap when the driver came our way.
All of that seems to have changed now. Although you can buy a season pass to get on the beach, when you get there, you may be turned away. Now it looks like only 4×4 vehicles are allowed on the beach. In one case, a resident called me and told me that he was told “If you get stuck, the sheriff’s office will give you a $60 ticket.” I don’t know what, but, something’s got to give…
Parking is now a big issue. Soft sand keeps accumulating near the dunes which is where the driving lanes are. (Ironic that only 4×4’s can go on the beach which could actually run all over the dunes) But years ago, the St Johns County beach plan called for rock jetties to go out into the ocean at all inlets and driving on the beach (with the help of the grader) that could have prevented some of the current issues, and, by the way, seems to have stopped millions of dollars of beach re-nourishment for other municipalities just south of us.
Instead, we pump sand back on our beach every few years at a high cost. Does this help or hurt other areas? Maybe…I’ve heard arguments for both sides.
Maybe we could have used those millions for additional parking lots off the beach for those who don’t want to actually drive on the beach. Maybe we could actually use the large road grader again on the beach which will allow all cars to park on the beach. I was told that according to a habitat conservation document, we couldn’t use it. (P.S. I read every page of that plan, and it doesn’t prohibit grading the sand, and even mentions driving on the beach.)
If tourist want to come here because of our beautiful beaches and are willing to pay the daily fee to drive on the beach, I say let’s find a way to make that happen. Recently, part of the beach near Matanzas Inlet was closed to all drivers due to the government. This is wrong, as we have been doing it since the model T was around.
Tourist pay beach fees, gas up, buy ice, beverages, bait, and maybe even decide to stay overnight if they are having a good time. One might be able to make a case that if the tourists could actually pay to park on the beach, then locals might be able to park on the beach for free.
It really irks me when I hear that people move here partly because of the beauty of the beach and then want to change it when there are local children who have never even been to the beach.
Folks, the beach and the St Johns River were here first, people have been enjoying them for almost 450 years, right? So let’s put things back to the way they were and not mess with nature. Where else can you enjoy a beautiful beach without high rises and smog?
If you have any ideas about the beach or have a story to tell, I would love to hear from you. Send your thoughts to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.