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Carwash being built next to Fish Island preserve

The land is cleared and crews are prepping the site for construction.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Cris Goodin likes visiting the newly opened Fish Island Park in St. Augustine.

He took a walk through the park Friday.

"It’s a beautiful overhead canopy," Goodin said. "I like that a lot where the trees overlap where you’re walking. It’s beautiful."

Fish Island is not really an island. It’s about 60 acres of natural land along the Matanzas River at the southeast base of the State Road 312 Bridge in St. Augustine.

In the last five years, residents such as Janet Patten formed a group called Save Fish Island.  They fought to keep the land from being developed into houses and condos. They won that battle, and now Fish Island is a preserve and a city park.

Friday, she visited the park and smiled, "We are so excited.  The entrance is now open."

But Friends of Fish Island did not win a fight to stop Gate Petroleum from building a car wash next to the preserve.

The entrance for the park just feet away from the what will be the entrance to the car wash.

The site of the future car wash has been cleared and a tree crew was working the property Friday.  

Patten and her colleagues were concerned about water runoff from the car wash impacting the nature preserve next door.

Patten said, "We have gotten some concessions about the storm water runoff."

According to Amy Skinner, the St. Augustine Deputy Director of the Planning and Building Department,  Gate will use an existing retention pond just south of the car wash property to collect some of the runoff and the company will also build an underground tank to collect the rest.

"We’re grateful for that that it wont be going onto Fish Island property," Patten said.

"That was a big win," Matanzas Riverkeeper Jen Lomberk said. 

The Friends of Fish Island group was also concerned about the trees on the Gate property.   Skinner said Gate has met all the tree requirements. She said there is one oak that is considered protected, and Gate plans to uproot and relocate it on-site. 

Lomberk wonders if it will survive the move.

While Patten is thankful Fish Island was saved from development, she is concerned if the soon-to-come car wash will impact the preserve. 

Goodin is too.

He said, "It feels like we have plenty of car washes in town. And especially being so close to the intracoastal and marsh, it’s a little much. I think it’s unnecessary." 

First Coast News reached out to Gate Petroleum for comment. We have not heard back.