The Summer Haven River has numerous benefits to our community, county and state. Some of these benefits include environmental, recreation, education, economic and safety.
Sea Turtle Nesting Site
The Summer Haven River is a critical environmental asset to the entire Matanzas Basin including Matanzas Inlet and Pellicer Creek. Scientists have confirmed that a fully open river, during low and high tides, provides an invaluable and biodiverse ecosystem, while a closed river, infiltrated with sand, degrades the entire estuary.
Maintaining and protecting the
Summer Haven River is critical to provide resiliency to the entire Basin. The River provides many valuable ecosystem services. The Summer Haven River area provides critical habitat for many species of wildlife including
fish, dolphin, manatees, sea turtles, birds and others too numerous to list, many of which endangered.
The Summer Haven River, when open, quickly transports fresh sea water into wetlands, oyster habitats and inland areas
such as Pellicer Creek at each flood tide. It also, when flowing, flushes nutrients out of the same areas during each ebb tide.
The Summer Haven River provides a very important public ecotourism area for citizens of St. Johns County and surrounding communities. Activities include boating, paddle boarding, kayaking and fishing. Because the River serves as a nursery grounds for many species of fish, there is ample bait to catch for fishing activities.
The 22 acre Helen Mellon Schmidt Public Park along the Summer Haven River provides parking and boat launching access to adjacent Matanzas Inlet. The park provides access for hiking into the Fort Matanzas trail area and a rock revetment for fishing in the River. The park provides opportunities for bird watching for the many species of wading birds which frequent the River.
Educational Groups on Kayaks
The Summer Haven River has been widely used for educational purposes. For the past 38 years the St. Johns County School District has sponsored a summer Marine Science Program for middle school students. The program currently puts over 900 students each summer on the water in small classes with academic instruction provided by district teachers.
Much of that activity has taken place in the Summer Haven River. University of Florida Whitney Laboratory and other scientific entities have utilized the river for scientific study purposes and oyster gardening.
The Summer Haven River has indispensable value in terms of economic impact. Oyster beds in the open and flowing Class II waters of the Summer Haven River provided professional oyster men and women with quality
local oysters which could be publicly sold to individuals and local restaurants.
Professional fishing and kayak guides operate tours in the Summer Haven
River. The River provides calm water flow for beginner’s paddleboard and kayak lessons.
Protecting and maintaining the ocean dune system, which in turn protects the River flow, is crucial for maintaining home and rental property values. When the River is not flowing due to sand restriction, it fails to serve as a steering current in Matanzas Inlet. This is causing inestimable property
damage to homes along the south shoreline of the Inlet creating not only economic, but safety concerns.
The ocean dune system adjacent to the Summer Haven River
provides protection for A1A, an Evacuation Route and the Summer Haven River, as well as homes and rental properties.
It also provides sea turtle nesting habitat. When the dunes were not in place, ocean water has flowed
directly over A1A and into residential communities. Overtopping of this
roadway also creates very hazardous driving conditions.
The northern section of dune along the Summer Haven River beach, built with sand excavated from the River to restore it, has withstood a number of nor'easters and Hurricane Dorian. This restoration project was funded by a State grant and managed by the St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach District.