Sunday, November 27, 2016
Faye Armitage: Preserve and Protect All of Our City's History: St. Augustine Record (2009)
Preserve and protect all of our city's history
Posted: November 7, 2009 - 12:46am
By FAYE ARMITAGE
On Nov. 2, I received my First America Passport at the City of St. Augustine's 450th Commemoration Town Hall Meeting at the Flagler College Auditorium. A beautiful rubber-stamp adorns page one of my new passport (co-sponsored by augustine.com). Seven other events are planned, paying tribute to Native Americans, colonists, pirates, the British, Florida "Crackers," Flagler's Age of Opulence, and the Civil Rights era in St. Augustine. Each can earn you another stamp on your way to becoming an ambassador for the first city in our nation: St. Augustine.
Attendance was terrific, about 150. The presentation by Dana Ste. Claire was excellent. See www.staugustinegovernment.com.
Mayor Joe Boles urged attendees to "be creative," explaining how Jamestown welcomed 3-4 million visitors during its 400th birthday, bringing more than $1 billion in economic activity, along with international visitors (including the Queen of England). Heritage and environmental tourism is a very sustainable tourism, growing jobs without pollution. Our planning must preserve and protect, in the words of Frederick Law Olmsted, an "emerald necklace of parks," with a museum covering 11,000 years of history, including Indian, Spanish, African-American, French, English, Minorcan, Civil War, Flagler era and Civil Rights history.
This would empower Florida's schoolchildren to learn from history and nature, while providing the unique St. Augustine "branding" opportunity to grow our economy. That's why I support creation of a St. Augustine National Historical Park, Seashore and Coastal Parkway. Let's combine five state parks into one national park to better protect these local treasures (adding other lands as appropriate, including current St. Johns River Water Management District land).
For more information, check staugustgreen.com. Anyone who watched Ken Burns' 12-hour PBS documentary, "The National Parks, America's Best Idea," knows that our national parks are a uniquely American idea that protects nature and history from destruction. From the Everglades to the Grand Canyon to volcanoes to historic Philadelphia, Boston and New Bedford, the National Park Service is uniquely qualified to interpret our human and natural history. Let's ask NPS to educate Americans about our Nation's Oldest City.
The park could include light rail to connect St. Augustine to the beaches and what are currently state parks, like Guana-Tolomato-Matanzas National Estuarine Reserve (GTM-NERR) and Anastasia State Park, relieving traffic congestion and enhancing the visitor experience.
The park would raise our property values, help fight coastal erosion and wetland destruction, increase sustainable tourism, providing better jobs. Tourism drives our local economy. A national park would increase the length and quality of tourist stays, while making visits here a learning experience for everyone.
Seventh District incumbent U.S. Rep. John Mica recently obtained $500,000 funding for design of a brand-new National Park Service visitors center, located directly across from Castillo de San Marcos.
St. Augustine doesn't need a new building there. That's why I support a visitors' center located elsewhere, perhaps in restored buildings on St. George Street or at Sebastian Inland Harbor, interpreting all of our history and nature, while showing off and encouraging our visitors to enjoy our port, marshes, rivers, seashore and forests. Let's not worsen congestion of downtown. We need a park, not more pork.
We are blessed to live in St. Augustine and St. Johns County and we must adopt legislation to ensure that the places we love are preserved forever, preserving our way of life with an "emerald necklace of parks."
Rose Kennedy's favorite Bible quote was: "To whom much has been given, much is expected." (Luke 12:48).
Let's honor our precious cultural heritage, protect our environment and help grow our economy by having portions of St Augustine and St. Johns County designated as America's next National Park. Yes we can.
Faye Armitage is an economist and mother of five who lives in Fruit Cove. She was the Democratic nominee in the Seventh Congressional District against Rep. John Mica in 2008, earning nearly 150,000 votes in a district, which stretches from Ponte Vedra to Daytona Beach and Orlando.