ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH, Fla — A boardwalk to the beach is at the center of a disagreement in St. Augustine Beach. Three property owners who live close to it want that public boardwalk relocated, and they are willing to pay for it.
However, many people who use it say that’s not a good idea at all.
Meg O’Connell walks the boardwalk almost every day in St. Augustine Beach.
"Yeah we love it. It’s a nice way to walk through the hammock," she said.
The boardwalk is in the Ocean Hammock Park. It extends from close to A1A Beach Boulevard to the actual beach. Just south of boardwalk is Sea Colony, a gated community.
According to the St. Augustine City Manager Max Royle, three property owners in the Sea Colony neighborhood want that public boardwalk moved away from their neighborhood, into the middle of the park.
They are willing to pay $600,000 to do it, according to Royle. Although city staff says it could cost more than that.
Many people don’t want the boardwalk relocated.
Ron Angivino walked his dog along the boardwalk Monday. He told First Coast News, "Could you imagine taking that heavy equipment out and ripping out the entire boardwalk from here to the beach? All that beautiful swamp area? What about the animals that live there?"
O'Connell said, "This boardwalk is paid for by taxpayers’ dollars. What’s the impact to future decisions or existing decisions when two to three residents with means can change things with the community?"
St. Augustine Beach resident Gregg Hammann supports the relocation of the boardwalk. He sent a letter to the City Manager with the proposal to move the boardwalk. In the letter, he said relocating a boardwalk to the center of the park would “ease noise, traffic, and security concerns for residents abutting the park” and he said it would be better for the environment.
There are plans in place for extra amenities in the middle of the park, and First Coast News has learned the neighboring residents have expressed concerned with the extra people those amenities could bring.
O'Connell said she would "like to see the boardwalk maintained. If the Sea Colony residents would like to pay for an additional walkway, that is geared toward the park area, okay. And maybe this (existing boardwalk) can be used for residents. It would be nice to keep it intact."
The St. Augustine Beach City Commission has asked city staff to collect information about the cost and permits to move the boardwalk. It's expected the commission will bring up the issue again in January.