Friday, July 22, 2011
St. Augustine Underground: St. Augustine Deserves a National Historical Park and Seashore, Civil Rights Museum
From the January 1, 2011 issue of St. Augustine Underground (published by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, which also publishes the Ponte Vedra Recorder and Clay Today):
St. Augustine’s History is A National treasure -- The time has come to bring out the big guns and protect our nationally important local heritage with the creation of The St. Augustine National Historical Park, Seashore and Coastal Parkway.
By Ed Slavin
A famous journalism professor said
that “if you’re going to tell a
story about a bear, bring on the
Here’s how to protect St. Johns
County’s bears – and other endangered
and threatened species – while growing
our economy and making life better for
your grandchildren (and their grandchildren).
2011 is critical to reviving our local
economy, creating jobs and preserving
our city’s and our county’s environment
How do we revive our depressed local
tourist economy? How do we get “out
of the ditch,” which Wall Street and
local speculators created?
By persuading Congress to enact a
St. Augustine National Historical Park,
Seashore and Coastal Parkway.
Let’s donate 13 large tracts: the
Florida Department of Environmental
Protection’s Guana Tolomato Matanzas
National Estuarine Research Reserve,
Anastasia State Park, Faver-Dykes
State Park and Fort Mosé State Park;
Florida Department of Agriculture’s
Deep Creek State Forest and Watson
Island State Forest; St. Johns County
beaches and the Nocatee Preserve; and
St. Johns River Water Management
District ‘s Twelve Mile Swamp, Deep
Creek, Matanzas Marsh, Moses Creek
and Stokes Landing preserves.
Let’s donate them to the federal government
for the St. Augustine National
Historical Park and Seashore. These
vast tracts of government-owned land
are suitable for a National Park and
Seashore – more than 120,000 acres.
In Woodie Guthrie’s words, “This land
is our land” already – it is our county
beaches, state parks and forests and
water management district land. Combined
with the Castillo de San Marcos
and Fort Matanzas, this land will make
one glorious National Park and Seashore,
making us all proud and properly
celebrating St. Augustine’s 450th
birthday (2015) and Spanish Florida’s
Donating the land can save more than
$33 million over 10 years for state and
local governments; revive our economy;
create better-paying jobs with real
futures; protect our historic and environmental
heritage; teach our children
about history, beauty and nature; better
preserve our beaches; protect homes
from erosion; raise our property values;
and protect wildlife.
Let’s put people to work and draw
environmental and historic tourists,
who National Trust for Historic Preservation
and other studies say spend
more and visit longer, putting more
proverbial “heads in beds.” How? By
empowering our National Park Service
– America’s favorite federal agency. Ken
Burns’ PBS documentary rightly called
our National Parks “America’s Best
Idea.” We need one here.
Let’s teach history and nature to
future generations with a National Civil
Rights museum here in St. Augustine
and by celebrating all our history
-- 11,000 years of indigenous Native
American, African-American, Spanish,
Minorcan, French, English, Civil War,
Roman Catholic, Greek, Jewish, Protestant,
nautical, military, Flagler-era and
Civil Rights history.
Let’s preserve our endangered and
threatened species -- including right
whales (only 350 left, reportedly the
most endangered whales on the planet)
-- as well as turtles, bears, bald eagles,
manatees, beach mice and butterflies.
This Park and Seashore will rival Cape
Cod National Seashore, the Everglades,
Philadelphia and other tourist “hot
spots,” giving teachers and parents
tools to teach children lessons that will
keep them coming back for life.
Our state’s economy has suffered so
much since the Deepwater Horizon
disaster. We look to British Petroleum
to pay for it all as part of its economic
and environmental remediation to the
State of Florida.
The first step is for our governor and
legislature to agree to donate this land
to the federal government for one “public
park or pleasuring ground for the
benefit and enjoyment of the people,”
as Congress said in 1872 in creating
Yellowstone National Park.
Here are some frequently asked questions:
1. Will this park legislation violate
private property rights? No. The draft
legislation provides for donations of
government lands and donations or
sales from willing sellers. Condemnation
lawsuits are authorized only to
“preserve [historic buildings and land]
2. How would the park affect local
businesses, tourist attractions and
churches? Very positively. Historic and
environmental tourists spend more and
stay longer, studies show. This will create
more good-paying jobs, in the Park
Service, kayaking, tour-guide
companies, restaurants, hotels
and guest houses. There’s
a list of tourist attractions
and places of worship in the
legislation that the National
Park Service could assist with
historic interpretation. It
includes churches where Rev.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rev.
Andrew Young spoke, working with
local residents to create our 1964 Civil
3. Will this legislation take over the
government of the City of St. Augustine?
No. But St. Augustine can donate
a few parks to the cause. Our city needs
help and cannot handle the 450th celebration
alone. A greater National Park
Service presence here will help better
guide and orient millions of visitors.
The Park will help make our city a
better place – just ask the residents of
Cape Cod and Cape Hatteras.
4. What positive changes will creation
of a St. Augustine National Park and
A. Increase property values and local
tax collections. Property values
increase near National Parks and Seashores.
Bed tax and sales tax receipts
B. Grow our economy. Our local
economy is stagnant. The National
Park Service will help get us out of the
C. Reduce spending by our state, local
and water management district government
– savings of $33 million over ten
D. Increase the quality of tourism
marketing -- greatly simplified by combining
all this land into one National
E. Improve the quality of historic and
environmental interpretation, preservation
and protection. Right now, tourists
learn very little about our African-
American and Civil Rights history, for
example, or the heroic history of the
Minorcans and other immigrants to our
shores, or the endangered species that
make this area a paradise. The National
Park Service is experienced at protecting
nature and interpreting history
while stimulating tourism. A National
Civil Rights museum here in St. Augustine
will attract more school groups
and minority tourists – Rev. Dr. Martin
Luther King, Jr. is known world-wide
and his legacy here will attract tourists.
5. How will this affect historic reenactors?
Good jobs await them at the
National Park Service.
6. Is this legislation family-friendly?
Yes. Residents and tourists will thank
you for creating a wholesome place to
take children where they learn about
history and our environment, with a
classroom that is as big as all outdoors,
embracing 11,000 years of human history
on these shores.
7. How will this affect beach driving?
The legislation does not address
it, either way. Elsewhere, as in Cape
Cod, residents are licensed to drive on
National Park Service beaches after
proper training and can take tourists on
8. Is there a potential downside?
One. Proper transportation planning
is required to avoid congestion. The
draft bill requires a plan for “cost-effective,
environmentally-friendly means of
transporting visitors and residents to
and through the park’s locations, using
trolley cars resembling those in use in
St. Augustine, Florida, in 1928, with
the goal of reducing hydrocarbon consumption,
traffic congestion, air pollution
and damage to historic structures.”
9. When was the National Park idea
first proposed? Some 70 years ago,
before World War II.
10. What are we waiting for? You tell
Will you please help us celebrate
11,000 years of history and protect
what deserves protecting forever inviolate?
Will you please share your suggestions
about how to improve the first
draft of the legislation? Let us work together
to accomplish something we can
all be proud of for future generations
yet unborn who will say, “thank you.”
Please see www.staugustgreen.com
St. Augustine activist Ed Slavin
(B.S.F.S., Georgetown University, J.D.
Memphis State University) first proposed
the St. Augustine National Park and
Seashore Nov. 13, 2006.