EDITOR’S NOTE: Contributing columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insights on various topics in Marketplace column.
___ STEVE’S MARKETPLACE ____
Motivational speaker Kevin Elko will issue a challenge to the members of his audience: To go 24 hours without saying something negative or criticizing someone.
It’s nearly impossible to do. Sometimes we spew vitriol without realizing it. The media is especially aligned with this “negative news” predisposition.
To rebuff this nagging tendency, let’s give a moment (or 14 paragraphs) of thanks for our innumerable blessings here on Amelia Island and in Nassau County. It’s all good, as they say.
Take our arts and charities and churches. The cultural influence here is as heavy as the morning dew, with a plethora of artists and galleries and shows. It’s enough to tickle anyone’s creative palate.
Few places have the per-capita presence of charities that we do. And the churches in the area are impres-sive, not only from their physical structures but also from their reach and devotions.
Our public and private schools are outstanding also. Some of the schools, like Fernandina Beach High School, have received national acclaim; others have surpassed their peers in standardized testing. And we’ve received accolades for exemplary teachers like Dan Sndyer at FBHS.
Let’s not forget the entertainment portion of life. Our serving of privately held restaurants will rival anyplace, anywhere. Just in downtown Fernandina Beach, there are about 25 eateries that will delight your appetite — and not one of them is part of a chain.
For the exercise enthusiasts, there is so much to offer. The new bike lanes along South Fletcher and through the south end of Amelia Island are notably busy (coordinator Phil Scanlan deserves much of the credit for this). And there are off-road trails through Ft. Clinch and the Greenway that will challenge even the hardcore mountain biker.
While we have terrific playhouses for entertainment, there have also been improvements in the political theater. Fiscally conservative representatives like Steve Kelley (county commission), Amanda Young (school board), and Sarah Pelican and Charley Corbett (both on the Fernandina Beach City Commission) will help tighten belts and balance budgets.
Also, if elected sheriff, Bill Leeper would infuse a shot of energy and professionalism into the law enforcement arena. And both State Rep. Janet Adkins and Florida Senate hopeful Aaron Bean are dynamic, tireless and effective — and would astutely represent Nassau County.
In fact, Adkins spearheaded the recent beautification of South Eighth Street. Palm trees and bushes have been planted along the center islands and roadside beds — and the project was paid for by the state (South Eighth Street is actually a part of State Highway A1A).
Major firms are being drawn here, as are wealthy retirees — and the rich and famous. Acclaimed author John Grisham is building two houses on the beach here, and the owner of the “Five Hour Energy” drink purchased an existing home along the intracoastal waterway. (By the way, Oprah Winfrey just awarded nearby Kingsland, Ga. the title of “Lovetown USA” and will air an eight-week show about it this summer.)
Rock-Tenn’s acquisition of the former Smurfit Stone paper mill has been a godsend in the financial stability it has provided and the jobs it has saved. And the Omni Hotel group is making a huge commitment both in scope and financial terms at the (Omni) Amelia Island Plantation.
By the way, let’s not omit the fact that tourism is booming here. The hotels are full, downtown Fernandina Beach is crawling with tourists, and retail shops and restaurants are prospering. The recent spring break season was the busiest in recent memory.
Oh yes, we must be grateful for something else. We live in a place where people — from all over — spend their vacations. Our area has been recognized by top magazines across the country as a coveted tourist and retirement destination (that’s why the Ritz-Carlton Hotel group chose to come here, isn’t it?).
Sprinkle in 13 miles of beaches, endless inland waterways and rivers, and a historic downtown in Fernandina Beach, and you have prize-winning and motivating recipe — for living, playing and working.