“A tourist’s dream destination. Historic downtown on one end of an enchanted island; lavish resorts on other. Eclectic restaurants and hotels. Hospitable mentality to visitors. Abundant family activities. Everyone who comes here raves about a wonderful experience.”
Most of this would be accurate -- except for the last one or two lines. Of late, a recent development in Fernandina Beach with a restrictive and punitive noise ordinance is already causing a whiplash of negativity.
Not one, but two visitors took it upon themselves to write negative reviews of their time here during Florida-Georgia weekend. You know the logarithm for these things; if one speaks out, there are usually another five or more who feel the same way.
Instead of raves, consider these visitors’ comments in letters to the News-Leader. Richard Myers of Tybee Island, Ga. wrote this about his “family’s annual visit to beautiful Amelia Island” for Georgia/Florida weekend:
“We left our hotel and went downtown for a late meal and local color. The town was abuzz with many fellow Bulldogs enjoying the local nightlife. We settled in at a little pub called ‘The Green Turtle’ for a hot dog and a beer -- by the most subdued of the downtown establishments.”
Myers goes on to describe how a noise complaint prompted police officers to approach the bar and confront the bartender about the purported noise. “The crime that had justified all this? Talking, laughing, and having a conversation.”
He concludes with the dreaded words: “I am sorry to say that next year my family and my money will visit Ponte Vedra Beach or St. Augustine for Georgia/Florida weekend.” (The annual Bausch & Lomb Women’s Tennis Championship Tournament already went that way -- we don’t need our tourists to do the same).
Another visitor had a similar experience. Mark Osteen of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania heralded this: “Warning to all fellow travelers, tourists, yachters! Bypass Nassau County and Fernandina Beach! The Bill of Rights is not recognized in this city.”
Osteen goes on to conclude “Your noise ordinance is anti-business and anti-American! Your city won’t get my tourist dollars again.”
Both complaints revolve around the city’s new noise ordinance. This is not to fault the police officers; they were merely trying to enforce the noise ordinance concocted by city officials.
Yes, we need a noise ordinance for order and sanity. But maybe not this one. If local officials want to quash the downtown nightlife, continue along the path decried by Osteen and Myers. And we’ll get more of the same reaction.
We want daytime and nighttime activities for tourists and locals alike. We should desire a buzz of excitement, of energy, in the air here. Local merchants can rely on premium weekends such as Florida/Georgia and on the busy summer months to make up for slower times.
Let’s keep it that way. We all enjoy the fancy restaurants and the posh resorts next door and the vibrant economy that stem from tourism here. And most visitors rave about their experience. We have much to offer.
In fact, numerous residents have moved here after an initial visit -- that they enjoyed so much they decided to call this their home. A happy balance has to be struck between providing activities, both day and night, and protecting the sanctity, order and peace.
(Steve Nicklas is a financial advisor who lives on Amelia Island. He can be reached at 904-753-0236 or send an eMail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.)