More than 50-years ago, the late Phil Genovar invited Historic City News editor Michael Gold and other members of his scout troop to visit his spacious, family estate along the San Sebastian River. After a quick tour of what seemed like an endless stretch of secluded natural Florida, the guests were invited to put on their swimsuits and enjoy a morning of fun in the water and picnic lunch before heading home.
Over the years large tracts of the Bartolo Genovar estate were developed along US-1, including the Home Depot, the Riverside Shopping Center, and the property for the SR-312 Mickler-O’Connell Bridge. Saved from development was about 31-acres along the river; north of SR-312, east of Home Depot, and south of Nix Boat Yard Road, where the Genovar home was built. Now that property is for sale and the county commission has voted unanimously to purchase it.
“I not only support it, but I’m very excited about it,” Commissioner Paul Waldron said. “This could become one of the nicest parks in the State of Florida.” Many speakers including St. Augustine and St. Augustine Beach Commissioners also spoke in favor of the acquisition.
There are now 16,701 registered boats in St Johns County and few ramps for boaters to launch their watercraft. The Genovar property will be used for a passive park and another greatly needed boat ramp.
Although some have expressed sticker shock at the $17.5 million purchase price, funds will be used from the Tree Bank fund, Impact Fee Fund, Waterway Access Fund, Tourist Development Fund, and the General Fund. Other sources will be investigated including the Florida Forever Fund, St. Augustine Port, Waterway & Beach District, Florida Inland Navigation District, and other grant programs.
In the initial analysis, the breakdown was estimated to be:
- $5.25 million from the Waterway Access Fund
- $2 million from the Tree Bank Fund
- $1.125 million from impact fees Parks Zone C
- $1.125 million from Tourist Development Tax Category V
- $8 million in short-term financing from the General Fund