By Michael Isam
St. Augustine, Fla, (October 2, 2012) – The St. Johns County Cultural Resources Review Board (CRRB) listened intently as its staff presented an impressive overview of the proposal put forth by the citizens group seeking to gain support for San Pablo Island.
The “Group of Citizens” as they refer to themselves, made a very impressive presentation filled with many maps dating back to very early days. They repeatedly referred to the San Pablo Road that came south to a point on the peninsula, at that point in time, to a section about 10 miles long. Mostly swamp, there was a place where wagon traffic could cross. From that point south, the road took a different name. The crossover was bounded on the north by Pablo Creek and on the south by the Tolomato river. At some point a group of people got together and dug a trench the length of the crossover to unite the two rivers and provide a north/south waterway. This action apparently created the “Island.”
Mr. Paul Weaver spoke during the public comment period expressing agreement with the staff that naming it San Pablo is historically misleading. The name San Pablo is more concentrated in the Jacksonville Beach area north and has little historical significance found in St. Johns.
SGM Ray Quinn and Bill Dudley spoke to the board regarding naming the island ‘Veterans Island’, citing the chance to honor veteran service forever. Beginning with the first days of settlement by Menendez, citizens were mustered to protect the settlement while the professional soldiers carried out attacks on the French at Fort Caroline. Nearly 450 years of veteran service, Jacksonville Naval Air Station, and Naval Station Mayport 19,000+ veterans in St. Johns County and over 100,000 veterans in Duval recommend by its very nature the name ‘Veterans Island’. Go to http://www.youtube.com/my_videos_edit?ns=1&video_id=X_qqQJFnrbs for the video
At the end of the meeting Board chairman Walter O’Kon called for a voice vote. The CRRB voted to recommend denial of this naming. In a public document there are the words “ The staff finds that adding the San Pablo name to these coastal lands is detrimental to the current and historical identity of St. Johns County.” to deny the name San Pablo Island to the county commissioners. For the report from the staff to the board of county commissioners, go to http://www.sjccoc.us/minrec/agendas/2012/090412cd/09-04-12REG03.pdf
In a quick exit poll of people present, what the citizen group failed to bring forth in the overall picture to address the “unification” question is how the lower two-thirds of the island is going to benefit from the name.
There is little to unify St. Johns and Duval. It does not matter that both were in the same county over 150 years ago. From the gist of the testimony before the board, the main underlying concern is not a name for the island, but of greater import is tourist and Tourist Development Council (TDC) money and getting tourism to the north part of the island. There is little on the lower two-thirds of the island referring to ‘Pablo’, so where is the monetary significance to Vilano and South Ponte Vedra?