Public comment on Fort Matanzas plan

One Crescent Beach couple, who own and operate a business that has been in their family since the 1960’s, has asked Historic City News to help call attention to an opportunity for the beach-going public to support restoration of vehicular access to Matanzas Inlet — before, they say, it is too late.

Karen and Henry Miles have owned Devil’s Elbow Fishing Resort at Crescent Beach for the last ten years; however, Karen’s grandmother, Onie Eatman, and her husband Truman, took over the “cracker” style camp after the area was devastated by Hurricane Dora.

Henry Miles has been busy lobbying the National Park Service, current members of the St Johns County commission, and even some candidates — anybody that he thinks can help untangle the mess that led to vehicles being banned south of the Fort Matanzas beach ramp on January 1, 2010.

The is a small window of opportunity to show support for Miles’ cause, County Commission candidate Brian Iannucci told Historic City News today. Iannucci supports re-opening the south beach to both pedestrians and their vehicles.

Miles said the ban on beach parking essentially made access to Matanzas Inlet impractical — especially for senior citizens, handicapped people, and others who have special needs.

“This is an important issue for businesses and tourism in St Johns County,” Iannucci told reporters.

Last month, the General Management Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement, for Fort Matanzas National Monument was published in the Federal Register.

The National Park Service says in the General Management Plan, that they prefer “Alternative B” to guide the management of the Monument “over the next 15 to 20 years”.

Miles says that Alternative B is not acceptable to the majority of the beach community because it will continue to ban vehicles from entry to the county’s south beaches.

Residents knew what was coming before the New Year’s Day ban in 2010 — that measure was announced to the public in March 2008. In a letter to the editor that appeared in the St Augustine Record in November 2009, NPS Superintendent Gordie Wilson wrote that the “overwhelming majority” of people preferred open beaches. The beaches were closed despite that fact.

Miles is directing his customers, friends, and political acquaintances to support “Alternative Plan C” instead; because he feels it provides for a higher level of recreational opportunity and it restores driving on the beach.

The Park Service has announced that recent studies have enhanced their understanding of “resources, resource threats, and visitor use” in the Monument, which includes the dunes and upland beach east of SR-A1A.

With that in mind, there will be two public meetings held to receive comment on management alternatives; Miles says that it is essential that you attend, and if possible, attend both.

The dates and times are:

Monday, July 23, 2012, 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm
Tuesday, July 24, 2012, 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm

The Lohman Auditorium, where the meetings will be held, is located at 9505 Ocean Shore Boulevard at Marineland; on the north side of the marina, behind Whitney Laboratory.

In addition to the meeting, the “Comment Period” at NPS is open from 06/22/2012 – 08/24/2012. You can review the entire management proposal by clicking this link and, once you’re there, click the button labeled “Comment on Document” to express your opinions.

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