Friday, May 16, 2014

Former County Commissioner BRUCE MAGUIRE's Questions About Francis Field

Former County Commissioner BRUCE MAGUIRE wrote a column for thoughtful Michael Gold's "Historic City News" in which he complains about cheapskate day-tripping tourists who attend festivals at our Special Events Field, otherwise known as Francis Field.
BRUCE MAGUIRE rightly questions such irrelevant, noisy, noisome "festivals" as the "Bacon Festival," with a $4 admission, dodgy attendees, and no known linkage to St. Augustine history.
While no doubt bacon was smoked, cured and produced here, it is not heritage tourism.
BRUCE MAGUIRE asks valid questions about parking, sustainabilit and large crowds in a small town.
They are worthy of public debate, discussion and policy analysis.
The late Fred Francis, a Gay owner of the baseball team known as the St. Augustine Sains, deeded Francis City to the City of St. Augustine for baseball fields.
None survives.
WILLIAM BRUCE HARRISS plowed under the baseball fields for the massive parking garage, leaving the fields fallow unless there is a festival.
How uncool was that?
Francis Field needs to be renamed the Francis-Robinson field, after Fred Francis and Jackie Robinson, who was forbidden by "Jim Crow" segregation laws to play baseball there in 1946 as a minor leaguer.
Baseball fields need to be re-established at Francis Field.
When there are special events, let them be well-planned, with satellite parking, like Mumford & Sons concert in September 2013, so that our city's historic downtown neighborhoods are not invaded by dazed and confused daytrippers in search of a free parking place and a place to urinate.
They once said on Martha's Vineyard and Cape Cod that there were tourists who "arrived with a $20 bill and a t-shirt and changed neither."
The same is tree of Special Events Field festival-goers.
The Amphitheater is a better venue, but it is owned by the County.
It seems our City of St. Augustine wants to maximize return on the parking garage by renting out the special events field.
That's understandable, except that it can be an unfair burden to residents, without benefits.
While we want to be open to everyone, our business model should focus on historic and environmental tourists, who appreciate Our Town.
Historic and environmental tourists spend twice as much and twice as long as fungible Florida tourists, party people, who know not that they know not that they know not.
The answer to our prayers is the St. Augustine National Historic Park and National Seashore.

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