Citizen reaction results in recall of Loring Park trespassing signs

275-souder-no-trespassingA week after Historic City News reported on our reader’s reaction to the attempted closing of Loring Park west of Government House in downtown St Augustine, Ed Poppell is apologizing for following City Attorney Isabelle Lopez’ advice to post “No Trespassing” signs around the public park.

Saying the university put up signs “that probably we shouldn’t have”, Poppell, a former vice president at the university who is now a liaison to the university board, told reporters in an interview with the St Augustine Record, “We’re sorry and we have taken them away.”

As indicated in an e-mail exchange obtained by local reporters, Lopez advised Poppell to erect the signs in order to deal with “public forum issues” on the park property — even before any issues occurred. “While I remain hesitant about the No Trespass wording, I understand. Thanks so much,” Poppell responded to the city attorney two weeks later.

Still it was clear from reading the e-mail exchange that Poppell was reacting to Lopez’ unfortunately premature, bad advice.

“Isabelle, just wanted to follow up with you regarding the public forum issue you brought to my attention early this week,” Poppell replied to Lopez on July 8, 2016. “I again want to thank you for your early alert and guidance on this issue. We are forever indebted to you.”

275-geanuleusUF Historic St Augustine, through the park’s lessee, University of Florida, acted on Lopez communication; enacting an emergency rule the following week, later ratified by the UF Board of Trustees in September.

Today Poppell probably regrets listening to Lopez, whose true motives are not yet clear, as University of Florida officials have reversed the draconian decision to place “No Trespassing” signs in Loring Park.

Many Historic City News readers showed their defiance of the signs, taking “selfies” showing themselves standing inside the posted public area. There was not one positive comment in support of the city attorney or UF board action.

275-peters-no-trespassingLast year, local contractor John Valdes donated the repairs necessary to restore and refinish the public fountain in the center of the park.

“We want people to come there and picnic and enjoy that green space, but understanding that we reserve the right to program it,” Poppell said. He gave an indication of what he means by that when he acknowledged that the university will have events in Loring Park, such as weddings.

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