Fernandina Forefathers Displayed Foresight

Fernandina Beach is “a delightful town with historic flavor, industrial grit and a gift-box assortment of amenities. It is something to behold — tourists flock here for that reason.”

Shrimp Festival, Centre Street in Fernandina Beach, Florida
Shrimp Festival, Centre Street in Fernandina Beach, Florida

EDITOR’S NOTE: Contributing columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insight on various topics in Marketplace column.


Fernandina Beach forefathers displayed foresight in their decisions.

And their prescience has created a delightful town with historic flavor, an industrial grit and a gift-box assortment of amenities. It is something to behold — tourists flock here for that reason.

Landmark decisions that shaped Fernandina Beach

Now, it is up to a new generation of public- and private-sector leaders to keep it that way. To continue in the big footsteps and grand tradition.

As a road map, or at least a reference, here are some landmark decisions that shaped Fernandina Beach over the years. We can learn from these innovative moves (listed in random order).

Decision No. 1: Changing the old name of “Fernandina” to “Fernandina Beach.” In this way, political leaders added a buzz of appeal to the name. It was a simple, opportunistic move.

Decision No. 2: Returning downtown to its rich roots. Some 40 years ago, local leaders embarked on a bold renovation of Centre Street, reviving it within a historic makeover. Today’s quaint streetscape of shops and restaurants originated in a controversial, yet productive, move.

Decision No. 3: Preserving our vibrant green space. Our network of parks is impressive, and superior to most small coastal towns. Especially when you combine with them the state-run park at Fort Clinch.

Charters and Boat Tours Depart Fernandina Beach Harbor Marina
Boat Tours Depart Fernandina Beach Harbor Marina
Decision No. 4: Constructing the downtown marina. Though the embattled marina has been a source of controversy (due mostly to its condition), it is a premier asset with endless potential. And the same can be said for the city golf course.

Decision No. 5: Relocating downtown Fernandina Beach from Old Town to its current location (this was done many years ago). The current location affords a synergy between the Amelia River and the Atlantic Ocean, by way of Centre Street/Atlantic Avenue. Old Town has become an attractive community in its own right.

Decision No. 6: Converting the old jail to our primary museum here. The Amelia Island Museum of History has blossomed into a huge success, with programs and activities that enthrall visitors. The arts (galleries, studios, community theaters) here are second to few among small towns.

Decision No. 7: Restoring Egans Creek to its natural state. Again, the road to get there was rocky, but the Egans Creek Greenway preserve is a source of beauty, a haven for wildlife and an outlet for recreation (with its bike trails and walking routes).

Decision No. 8: Originating the vastly popular Shrimp Festival. While it took many forward-thinking residents to get it started and many tireless volunteers to keep it going, the Shrimp Festival is our city’s opportunity to show itself off to thousands. And we do it well.

Decision No. 9: Opening public access to our precious beaches. Our network of beach accesses is enjoyed by residents and tourists alike. And preserving beach driving/parking at Peter’s Point and at Sadler Road is another predominantly popular decision.

Decision No. 10: Holding community events, like concerts and cook-offs and benefits. These are fun, yet meaningful in bringing the community together. Some of the more recent additions of running races and triathlons (and bike paths) create an active-lifestyle appearance.

Keep The Good Times Going

Steve Nicklas
Steve Nicklas
In conclusion, hopefully our current political and community leaders can keep the good times going — and the progress flowing. They certainly have a charted course of history to follow.

As long as they are willing to watch and listen, and learn. Like our forefathers did.