Guest Column: Project is out of control

“Reconnecting” scope has lost focus

Bruce A. Maguire
St. Augustine, FL

Finally, we arrive at the last of the critical areas of concern – the magnitude of the project. This is the big umbrella factor.

The project has grown disproportionately oversized. It is no longer a simple “Reconnecting…” project. Somewhere, the focus has been lost.

The drafters of this project have been feeding on a cafeteria line, comprised of numerous and expensive ideas of recreating our City. The potential of grant money has emboldened our Commissioners with dreams of legacies in the making.

For example, why was a wooden boardwalk placed in front of the bayfront bulkhead ever considered? Because someone thought it would be nice to have? It had nothing to do with pedestrian traffic and connectivity into the historic district. However, it was an idea which could be paid via grant money and connected to a popular (?) concept. If you can get the money, build a castle. Thank goodness the community revolted against that concept and it was deleted.

What began as a simple project to improve pedestrian mobility around the fort has grown to become a complete redesign of Orange Ave, South Castillo Drive, Avenida Menendez and the bayfront. The project grew exponentially in size: financially, physically, emotionally, psychologically, and visually.

However, there is a downside to that growth. The over-sized ideas and dreams are creating negative effects on the very residents, tourists and businesses it was designed to promote. Remove the parking and remove the tourists. Remove a lane of traffic and create more congestion. Add a dedicated lane for the horse carriages and add more expense with less productivity. Continue expanding the project and continue expanding the time of construction.

I believe our federal government should discontinue taking our tax dollars and creating grants to appease us. Until that happens, our Commissioners should look for grants that relieve our citizens of financial burdens and operational problems…not exacerbate them. However, those projects should be based on validated needs.

In its initial mission statement, the Reconnecting the Castillo to the Bayfront project was offered to make improvements to the bayfront and A1A in time for the City’s 450th Commemoration in 2013-2015. However, this grant funding has the potential to provide capital funding for improvements to the bayfront and A1A, leaving improved connections between downtown and the Castillo – bayfront for the community’s benefit long after the celebration.

Bruce Maguire is a life-long resident of St. Augustine and Green Cove Springs. He graduated from the University of Florida where he was awarded a Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree in Business, with a specialty in Real Estate, investments and planning. Following 21 years in the Air Force as a fighter pilot, Mr. Maguire retired at the rank of Lt. Col. and returned to St. Johns County. He served four years as a County Commissioner, presiding as Chairman for one year. During the four years, he represented St. Johns County on the North Florida Regional Planning Council and the Metropolitan Planning Organization. He was appointed by the Governor to serve on the 2010-2020 Florida Transportation Plan development board. He currently owns and operates several businesses within the community.

Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News staff photographer

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