St. Augustine Archaeological Association president, Marsha A Chance, reported to Historic City News that the leaders of Save Fish Island were recently honored for raising awareness about preserving the island. The 57-acres, located on the eastern edge of the Matanzas River south of the Mickler-O’Connell Bridge, will be purchased with Florida Forever Funds and managed as a passive park by the City of St. Augustine.
According to a press release, Matanzas Riverkeeper Jen Lomberk, members Lisa McGlynn, Susan Hill, and Jon Hodgin, not only educated themselves regarding the island’s environmental and historical significance, but also became very active historical advocates. The honorees met with local officials, contacted federal, state and regional officials, conducted lengthy background research, and traveled to Tallahassee in getting this project accomplished.
The organization honored the group because of the island’s multiple significant archaeological sites, dating from prehistoric and historic times. Artifacts dating back 4,000 years, as well as remnants of the Fish plantation house and two burial tombs, have been identified. Fish Island was the home of Jesse Fish who, in the mid-1700s, developed what is considered Florida’s first orange grove. With upwards of 3,000 trees, Fish shipped his fruit as far away as Europe.
In addition to Fish Island providing a natural buffer of protection for Anastasia Island, it also serves as one of the last remaining wildlife habitats of its size within the St. Augustine city limits. It provides a haven for many species of threatened wildlife including an active bald eagle nest.