Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Maguire Pledges Access to Beach; Meanwhile, a New Group Forms on Issue

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Maguire Pledges Access to Beach; Meanwhile, a New Group Forms on Issue

Article excerpt

Byline: Drew Dixon, Shorelines staff writer

The stalemate over beach access in Ponte Vedra Beach may be loosening up as St. Johns County Commissioner Bruce Maguire last week verbally committed to clear, open and mark every public access point along the shoreline.

"I'm pledging that they are going to be open," Maguire said of seven of 14 public beach access points on Ponte Vedra Boulevard that remain obscured or overgrown. "That's a solid commitment that I'm making to the Ponte Vedra people. . . . That's not much to ask."

Maguire made the statements after activity regarding the contested beach access points. Attorney Mark Arnold, who lives on Ponte Vedra Boulevard, asked the Ponte Vedra Beach Municipal Service District last week to join a court case after the First Coast chapter of the Surfrider Foundation sued the county over its beach access policies in Ponte Vedra Beach. Arnold wants the MSD to be a co-defendant with the county on behalf of residents.

Meanwhile, the suit has stalled as hearings have been delayed and the judges overseeing the case in the 7th Judicial Circuit Court have changed.

Also, a new citizens group of Ponte Vedra Beach residents has formed. The Florida Beach Access & Awareness Coalition is scheduled to hold a town hall meeting on the issue Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Ponte Vedra Beach branch library. Vince Di Viesti, the founder of the group, lives about a mile from the beach.

Di Viesti said he has no association with Surfrider and wants no part of the suit, but he also wants the remaining beach access points that remain hidden from the public to be opened because local residents find it increasingly difficult to get to the ocean.

Maguire acknowledged it's time for the county to move on the clearing of all the access points.

"We're going to open them," said Maguire, who represents the Ponte Vedra Beach area. "I'm going to say we'll have one or two of them open by this spring.

"I'd like to get all 14 of them open real fast," Maguire said. "But I think at best, we're probably looking at two or three a year."

Deborah Andrews, one of the attorneys representing Surfrider in its lawsuit against the county, said there may be some room for concession if Maguire acts on his pledge. …

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