Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Park Delayed as It Awaits Boost in Size Fernandina Beach: City Wants More Land

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Park Delayed as It Awaits Boost in Size Fernandina Beach: City Wants More Land

Article excerpt

Byline: Allison Schaefers, Nassau Neighbors staff writer

A joint agreement between Fernandina Beach and Nassau County to build new athletic practice fields on a lot on Hickory Street has been delayed for months, leaving baseball players without a new place to practice.

But officials say the project will be under way again soon.

Workers broke ground in spring after the Nassau County School Board leased the city 10 acres. Engineers, land clearers, contractors and business owners across Nassau County offered their services to build the fields.

But county officials, who were to develop the property, haven't done anything since. The county postponed the project for nearly a year and a half as city recreation officials tried to obtain adjacent property owned by Rayland, said Beano Roberts, a former city commissioner who helped organize the joint project.

If that purchase is successful, it would to increase the size of the project, said Nan Voit, Fernandina Beach's interim recreation director. Recreation officials say current facilities are inadequate. Fernandina Beach has only seven open public park practice fields.

"The county wanted to wait until we had negotiated all the land so that they could develop the project all at once," Voit said.

Since then, Rayland has made an offer to sell 15.3 acres to the city for $35,000 a acre, she said.

If the city agrees to the $535,500 purchase, Rayland will donate an additional 7.42 acres to the Egans Creek Greenway Project, Voit said.

City and county officials are to meet at 6 p.m. March 12 at Fernandina Beach City Hall to discuss the purchase. Rayland has given officials until March 15 to decide, Voit said.

"The city feels strongly about purchasing the property for our practice leagues," Voit said. "We are in dire need of practice fields. We've got Babe Ruth and soccer in season now, and if you ride around the city, you'll find children practicing on every available piece of land."

But Roberts said he's worried that the city won't be able to fund the project without county assistance.

"We hope the county will contribute," he said. …

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