U. S. Representative John L. Mica brought his fight to Tallahassee today; clearing the way for a new Castillo de San Marcos Visitor Center after he made a rare appearance before the Florida Cabinet according to an announcement received by Historic City News.
The Florida Cabinet granted the approval of the transfer of a parcel of State owned land in St. Augustine to construct the National Park Visitor Center adjacent to the Castillo without restrictions that would have killed the project.
Mica was successful in gaining this final Cabinet approval, which moves the project forward, by eliminating a staff recommendation that the land be conveyed under an “indefinite deed reverter clause” which would have prevented the transfer to federal hands and which would have doomed the project. Federal law prevents any deed restriction on Federally improved land.
Rep. Mica clearly elated by the Cabinet action said, “Granting this land transfer without a complicated proviso clause clears the way for the new National Parks Castillo Visitor Center. Now we can open the new facility in time for the 450th St. Augustine Celebration and the millions of visitors expected for the celebration.”
The parcel, valued at $588,000, will be transferred with the only restriction being that the land must be used solely for the construction of a Castillo Visitor Center.
This culminates a seven year effort to clear various hurdles for approval of construction of a center that is expected to attract millions of residents and visitors. The Congressman worked with local officials to secure city, state and federal land; attain approvals; and obtain funding for the estimated $12 million project.
The new facility will contain educational, display and exhibition space to accommodate thousands of artifacts, documents and other State and national treasures. Rep. Mica said this is one of the few national landmarks of this size and importance that does not have a visitor center.
All three Cabinet members attending today’s session voted to proceed with the land donation; without the property reverter clause which staff had recommended and Mica sought to waive.
This week the U.S. Department of Interior will move forward with final design of the Center with Federal support that Mica has secured for the project.
Congressman Mica told the cabinet, “By your action you’ve made my day and provided St Augustine and its citizens a great project for their future.”
Also in attendance at the Cabinet meeting was Gordon Wilson, Superintendent of the Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas National Monuments, and Ed Poppell, University of Florida Vice President Business Affairs.
Photo credits: © 2010 Historic City News staff photographer