Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Huguenot Proposal Has Beach Advocates on Edge

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Huguenot Proposal Has Beach Advocates on Edge

Article excerpt

Byline: DREW DIXON

Audubon of Florida's proposal to close about a third of the beach to vehicle driving at Huguenot Memorial Park is drawing backlash from nearby businesses.

"It would kill the business," said Jim Rodgers, owner of Fort George Island Surf Shop, the commercial property closest to the entrance of Huguenot, off Heckscher Drive north of the Beaches.

"I'm a bird lover; I've got nothing against the birds," said Rodgers. "These people come from all these places that don't live out here; this is our backyard and not theirs. They want to stop driving on the beach. Call it what it is."

Lee Smith, manager of the Sandollar Restaurant and Marina near the St. Johns River Ferry slip on Heckscher Drive, said closure of any part of Huguenot's beach would be devastating to his clientele.

"Especially on the weekends and [during] the summer, we have a lot of customers who stop here after going to the beach," Smith said Monday. "We wouldn't support it. ... It would affect our business, I know that."

Florida Audubon, which has been helping Jacksonville implement a Huguenot Park management plan, recommended keeping vehicles off parts of the beach, including the north point of the park, to protect water fowl that often use the area for nesting.

In a hearing in Tallahassee on Dec. 11, the Florida Acquisition and Restoration Council, which oversees such agreements, voted against the measure. Instead, the panel directed the city to return in a year to detail an updated management plan after public hearings can be held and city officials can work with environmental and other groups to determine the best way to protect the wildlife,

Nathan Rezeau, Jacksonville division chief of Waterfront Management and Programming, oversees the Huguenot management plan. He said while the state board deferred any decision on beach closure for a year, it's likely the city will have to come up with a plan to block some of the shoreline to vehicles at Huguenot.

"The city has to determine an area where no vehicles will be allowed. Yes, there is going to be an area that's going to be closed," Rezeau said. …

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