Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

If Anything's Worth Saving, It Must Be This

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

If Anything's Worth Saving, It Must Be This

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Woods

FERNANDINA BEACH -- If you look at a map of Nassau County, just south of the Shave Bridge and west of Amelia Island, you'll find a patch of land in the Intracoastal Waterway called Crane Island.

Well, that's what the maps call it.

Some of the locals have another name.

"Alice's Island," Eric Titcomb said, starting to tell the story as he and Robert Weintraub paddled a canoe toward the small island.

Alice Broadbent was her name. Her father, a blacksmith, purchased the land in the 1880s. The family lived there until the 1920s. Alice's parents died. Her sister moved. Alice stayed, becoming the kind of local character that everybody knew about but nobody knew.

On the rare occasions that she ventured into town, she wore dresses made out of flour sacks and didn't talk to anyone. And when anyone happened to get close to her island, she got out her shotgun and fired off a few shots.

"She disappeared in the early '50s," Titcomb said, continuing to paddle through the placid water. "Her house burned down, and they never found her body."

More than 50 years later, Alice's Island remains uninhabited, pristine, covered with maritime forest. But developers repeatedly have tried to change that -- and repeatedly have had their efforts shot down.

The latest battle, though, has been the most intense. The current owners of the land and two powerful developers, Amelia Island Plantation and Civitas, want to change Crane Island's designation from wetlands/conservation to low-density residential, dredge the middle of the island and build a 90-slip marina and 169 homes.

A coalition of local groups, from the Sierra Club to homeowners associations to the Amelia Pilots Association, has lined up against the development, citing a long list of concerns: growth management, the environment, the risk of hurricane damage to the low-lying area driving up all Nassau insurance rates, the future of the airport, the past of the area. …

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