Twenty-five St. Johns County residents learned they face a long
and winding road if they want to secure a Florida Scenic Highway
Designation for Florida 13.
During a 90-minute meeting Thursday with state transportation
officials, they heard it could take years of grass-roots
cooperation before they come up with a management plan
preserving the history and beauty of that 30-mile stretch of
winding country road between Fruit Cove and Hastings.
Even so, some at the meeting in the Bartram Trail branch
library wondered if a management plan would really preserve the
look of the tree-lined roadway from development.
"It seems to me that the train has left the station," said Don
Beattie, referring to all the development that has occurred in
the past few years.
"Two years from now, if we get the designation, that will be
very nice," he said. "But things are already happening that
people are concerned about."
The Florida Department of Transportation can't make any changes
in a county's zoning rules or tree ordinances, said state scenic
highway program coordinator Gene Keeler. But he said the
advocacy group can include changes in the management plan if the
community agrees those are needed to preserve the scenic and
historic elements of Florida 13. Then, if the state approves the
plan, the residents already have the support to get the county
to make the changes in the plan.
"You determine what you will have on your road, not
government," Keeler said. "I don't see this program as rules and
regulations from government. This is agreement among the people
that says this is the way we want to see our community and we
are going to enforce it."
The residents have formed a corridor advocacy group to begin
the process of getting state scenic designation for the roadway.
Guided by Keeler, they will set up committees and draw up a
management plan that proves the road has major historical,
archaeological, cultural, recreational, natural and scenic
aspects that need to be preserved.
Thursday's meeting brought together residents, landowners,
County Commissioner Pal Howell and two state transportation
officials to learn about the management plan they will need to
draw up to preserve the road's scenic and historical aspects.
That plan could include proposed changes in county laws to
protect trees, historic and scenic sites. It could also propose
that informational brochures be printed on the road's history,
even how many information kiosks would be set up along the road
to entice visitors to stop and view the area.
The only advocacy group that is close to getting state approval
on its management plan is in Pensacola, and then only after two
years of work. …