Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Residents Concerned about Plan Timucuan Preserve Extension at Issue

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Residents Concerned about Plan Timucuan Preserve Extension at Issue

Article excerpt

Distrust of the federal government may move to the county level if the Nassau County Commission votes to include the Nassau River and the Florida half of the St. Marys River in the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve.

Residents on the western side of the county voiced their opposition to the proposal at a public hearing June 9, citing what they see as a seizure of property rights as their biggest concern.

"We've paid our taxes through blood, sweat and tears, but this is just another instance of the government moving in and taking my rights," Morgan Stokes of Bryceville said to a round of applause. "I'm disappointed in Nassau County for bringing this up at all."

County Commissioner David Howard, who represents the unincorporated area of Amelia Island, has already said that he would not recommend extending the preserve to the western side of Nassau County, and he does not foresee the other commissioners doing so either.

"I'm interested in preserving people's rights and their way of life," said Howard. "I don't believe in government mandating things on people's lives."

Howard introduced to the board last fall the proposal to extend the preserve, and the entire board voted to take a look at the proposal to see if there was a benefit to the county in the Timucuan Preserve. The commission also voted to hold public hearings to get public input on the issue.

If the board approves the proposal, it would then recommend the extension to U.S. Rep. Tillie Fowler, R-Fla., who would sponsor the legislation in Congress.

The 46,000-acre preserve in Duval County was created in 1988 when U.S. Rep. Charles Bennett, D-Fla., introduced the bill. Nassau County voted against being included then.

"Twelve years have gone by, and the fears of the county hadn't materialized in Duval, so we're interested in exploring it again," said Barbara Goodman, supervisor of the preserve, who spoke at the hearing held at the Callahan Fairgrounds.

The inclusion of Nassau County would not change any fishing, hunting or boating regulations, nor would it affect recreation, several county officials said. …

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