Many people gathered at the first meeting to discuss restoring the Summer Haven River. Not only were there neighbors in Summer Haven who have shared for generations with friends and community the magic of Summer Haven, but also numerous representatives of our governing bodies and experts in the field. I was at that meeting, and subsequent others and felt heartened by the support of so many from such various interests and backgrounds. I don't believe I've ever been to any other gathering - especially with governing officials presiding - where the support was so overwhelmingly positive and thoroughly explored. In fact, witnessing the reactions of so many officials who were elected or appointed to serve their constituents, I don't think I've ever been more hopeful that our government may be on the right track.
Summer Haven has been the jewel of our county and is enjoyed by visitors as well as residents for a variety of reasons. Most obviously, the water. Summer Haven is surrounded by natural beauty and access to the water like no other part of the county. The ocean and inlet give access to offshore fishing; one of the best surfing spots in the area; fishing from the bridge or the shoreline; a walk on the beach along one of the most beautiful sandy beaches from "North Point" towards Crescent Beach, or from the south edge of the inlet all the way to Marineland. I have walked or jogged many times in both directions, even jumping in the river and floating home after an especially hot long run. Yes, I lived there. I was one of those people who actually had the great good fortune to have resided in Summer Haven for many years. I lived in various rentals first on the river side, then on the ocean side, then the river side again, for the first fifteen years after having moved to St. Augustine in 1980. I got to know the people. I was shown the "honey holes" for fishing. I learned where the best surf breaks were according to the tides and weather. I learned from the scientists at Whitney who became good friends. I explored the back creeks and grass beds along the river. I met the characters who'd been there many years and whose families told stories of the generations who lived there long before I lucked into the find. And that find was not, and is not privy only to those who live there. And those who lived and live there were never selfish about sharing what they loved about the place.
That sense of sharing and community are what made Summer Haven so welcoming to me and so special to my feeling of being at home here in St. Augustine. When I discovered that one of my neighbors was about to sell her cottage on Old A1A that sits on the little cove of the Summer Haven River I immediately let my parents know about it. They purchased within a week of learning about it. A good thing, or it would have been sold to someone else before they even had a chance to entertain cold feet. Our family has owned the place since 1987 and though I no longer live down that way, I am still in love with the area and want to preserve it not only for our family, but for the friends and neighbors I also grew to love during the time I lived down there, and for the community for what continues as stated above to be available to all.
Please do what you can to restore the Summer Haven River. That river provides access to fishing, kayaking, canoeing, swimming, hiking, bird watching, nature treks, Marineland scientific research, beauty along Scenic and Historic A1A and the Federal Scenic Byway. There is history and a treasure trove of amazing stories about people who visited and established community there from the late 1800's. Writers, poets, artists, actors, politicians, aristocracy, surfers, fishermen, reclusive types and various characters have peopled the area since before A1A was constructed - giving access to more than just those who rode the mail boat down the river from Jacksonville in the early days.
I think the most profound statement made at that first meeting was uttered by Davron King Cardenas, whose family is now on fourth generation trying to protect what they love and share in Summer Haven. By a verbal agreement and possibly a handshake, when many years ago a portion of land along the river was transferred to allow for a re-routing of A1A, her father was promised, PROMISED, that the Summer Haven River would be protected and maintained.
Show us that government can still be trusted. Protect the Summer Haven River for generations to come. Restore it to what it was when a promise and a handshake were all that were needed to make good one's word.
St. John's County should act as permitee on the Summer Haven River restoration project which the St. Augustine Port District is funding.
I am writing on behalf of my family and friends who live, recreate and otherwise have enjoyed the Summer Haven River the past 50 years. As a resident of St. Johns County I am sure you are familiar with the river and the contribution it has made to the lives of the people of St. Johns and the surrounding counties. My family is from Putnam County but as children we spent many weekends on the Summerhaven River fishing, boating, and surfing in and around the river. Consequently, my two sisters and myself all moved to St. Johns County upon graduation from college and have made this our home.
I moved to the Summerhaven river area across from "Grannies Hole" in 1980 and have witnessed thousands of visitors over the years marvel at the sights and scenery of the river. Years ago I met a group of tourists at "Grannies Hole" on the river viewing what they thought were six whales mating around the sandbar. When I explained they were manatees they took pictures and stories with them back to New England. If have watched hundreds of manatees stop or swim by my dock over the years. On one night a group of scouts caught and released over 100 trout off of my dock on the river. I've seen seaplanes land on the river on a calm November morning. I've counted over ninety cars trailers and boats at one time parking, launching and/or fishing between Grannies Hole and the North End boat ramp on the Summerhaven river. From my porch I have viewed countless busloads of Kayakers and school age kids unload and play in and around the Grannies Hole area of the river for hours at a time. I have awakened to flamingos and pink spoonbills fishing in the marsh beside my home. On morning my nephew rescued an Egret who was the victim of a large clam that had clamped its leg and would not release ... the clam was so large the bird could not fly. I caught a bobcat by accident in a coon trap in my yard and had to release him using a long rope. I have seen both deer and rattlesnakes swim the river and a black bear on the bridge at night.
Huge trout and flounder have been harvested from that river over the years. And we have been told the oysters, which were certainly the best in the world would return if the river was restored.
My wonderful memories of the river are countless and they aren't just mine. I can only imagine how many people have similar stories that were a constant product of that beautiful river. Since the river has filled with sand the Osprey outside my window has flown elsewhere. The numbers of children and fishermen have dwindled and gone to other locations. But I am sure that they have found no place like the old Summerhaven River. Please help us bring it back.
We seriously believe that if we obtain a permit to restore there river we can raise the funds to make it happen. As you know, we already have most if not all the funding for the permit and only need you to sponsor the permit to give us a chance to save the river. On behalf of my family and many friends from St. Johns, Putnam and Flagler that use and love the Summerhaven River please seriously consider our plea that you sponsor us in our attempt to obtain this permit and save the river. Thank you.
Words from Friends
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