The dedication of Dr. Robert B. Hayling Freedom Park Saturday morning assures Historic City News readers that the City of St Augustine will keep Riberia Pointe as greenspace for the enjoyment of the Lincolnville neighborhood and residents throughout the community for generations to come.
Under a former mayor and commission, a series of commercial developers put the land’s future in doubt when they came to the City administration with several divergent proposals to convert the nearly eleven acres of former landfill at 399 Riberia Street into a warehouse, a couple of tourist attractions, including an aquarium, a coral farming operation, a site for the Children’s Museum, and other intensive commercial uses.
A neighborhood-organized initiative quickly came together with a mission to preserve Riberia Pointe as a “passive park” for the public to enjoy. Founding members of the organization, aptly calling themselves “Keep Riberia Pointe Green”, include Mayor Nancy Shaver, Cash McVey, artist Rosamond Parrish, Judith Seraphin, Sue Agresta, Blake Souder and the late Pat Reilly.
With its panoramic view of the San Sebastian and Matanzas Rivers, the Hayling Freedom Park will undoubtedly become a favorite place for reflection, recreation, and relaxation.
A “Passive Park” is a public area, designated as a park that does not provide facilities or equipment for exercise or play. An example would include a nature park or open greenspace. Uses envisioned were walking trails, a place for neighborhood frisbees and dogs, wildflowers and grasses, and bird watching.
The Keep Riberia Pointe Green organization was instrumental in gathering public support to introduce St Augustine City Ordinance 2015-46: Amending the Future Land Use Map designation for 399 Riberia Street from Open Land to Recreation and Open Space. The ordinance passed with then commissioner Don Crichlow dissenting.
With growing interest in Lincolnville and Riberia Pointe, the city began installing trees and, most recently, a paved walking path that circles the perimeter of the park. An effort to officially name Riberia Pointe settled on the name “Dr. Robert B. Hayling Freedom Park”.
“We, the Hayling family, are so thankful for my Uncle Robert’s tireless work in civil rights for all in St. Augustine, Florida, and for the people of this city to recognize him in this way,” said Nicolette Owens during the ceremonies. “Thank you for dedicating a new city green space park for all to enjoy. This will allow many future generations to learn about our uncle, who was a great man.”
“The Voice of Lincolnville”, Carrie Johnson, got a rise out of the crowd when, during the ceremony, she called out, “We gotta’ plant more trees out here!”
Saturday’s dedication ceremony coincided with the opening day of the Lincolnville Festival at Eddie Vickers Park, located adjacent to the new park.
Photo credits: © 2016 Historic City News contributed photography by Brian M Miller