Community Tries to Protect Martin's Island Fernandina: State Asked to Buy Property

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Byline: Allison Schaefers, Nassau Neighbors staff writer

Fernandina Beach city commissioners are getting involved in efforts to conserve Martin's Island so the land can be turned into a state park.

Mayor Kim Page has written a letter to U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Florida, asking him to support a $2.75 million appropriation to help communities protect coastal lands under threat of development. If the money came from the Coastal Zone Management Program, the property could become a Florida state park, she said.

If the state doesn't purchase the 105-acre island and make it into a state-owned ecotourism attraction overseen by Fort Clinch State Park, a development corporation plans to transform the island into 56 single-family lots, she said.

Clinch Kavanaugh, attorney for First Coast Group and Four Seasons Homebuilders, said the company could sell the island to the state if the price was right, but time is becoming a factor.

"We have to proceed on the development track. We can't sit on a property worth millions of dollars while the state decides what to do," he said.

Cliff Maxwell, manager of Fort Clinch State Park, said the park is interested in acquiring Martin's Island as well as neighboring Big Tiger and Little Tiger islands. If the state purchases Martin's Island, Maxwell said it is likely to remain undeveloped.

The island, located between Jolly River and Bells River northeast of the Blackrock community, is home to armadillos, raccoons, squirrels, wild boar, rattlesnakes and deer, he said. …