People wanting glimpse of shipwreck create bottleneck on A1A

St. Johns County deputies say thousands stopped along road over weekend

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – A shipwreck that washed ashore on South Ponte Vedra Beach is so unique it has become a tourist attraction.

But the hull of the wooden sailing ship that an archaeologist estimated dates back to the 1700s or 1800s has also become a cause of traffic problems.

The wreckage was first spotted Wednesday on the beach near the Guana preserve. 

Ever since the news broke, deputies with the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office said thousands of spectators have come to see it in person. Over the weekend, deputies said between 3,000 and 4,000 cars parked along the road. 

Sky4 flew over the area Monday morning and there were only a few cars parked along A1A, but deputies said the vehicles are blocking bike lanes, parking in the wrong direction and even blocking the road. It makes for a potentially dangerous situation with the speed limit being 55 mph.

According to the Sheriff's Office, about 10 violators got $40 tickets over the weekend.

Deputies also have received reports of trespassing on private property and people possibly stealing parts of the shipwreck.

"It is sad that people don't respect our history and what it means to the people that are walking down there," beachgoer Barbara Lee said. "I don't understand people who do that."

Deputies have started to patrol the area and are working with the state, which currently has custody of the shipwreck. On Monday, a new sign was put up that reads, "Property of the State of Florida SENSITIVE ARTIFACT PLEASE KEEP OFF."

Some spectators said it's sad that people are damaging something so historic.

"That's really not a good thing," Richard Kornutik said. "Disappointing in people. They should be trying to preserve history if they can to help others understand what went on in the past."

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Marc Anthony, who owns a treasure shop in St. Augustine, also came to see it. "I was just blown away by the rarity, (that) it will be sitting on our beaches today."

Deputies said people should park next to the Exxon station just south of Guana River Road, where parking is free. The wreck is located about three-quarters of a mile north of that lot. If that lot fills up, they can pay to park at the Middle Beach public access lot, but that walk is closer to four miles.

RARE SIGHT: Images of shipwreck on Ponte Vedra Beach

"We parked down at the Exxon," Lee said "That's why we had to walk a good distance. But people do go pretty fast along here, so you do need to be very careful when you get out of your car to cross the road."

At first, researchers were told they couldn't move the wreckage because it was on state land. They were then told they could move it to preserve it, but the crane brought in got stuck in the sand. Plans to relocate the shipwreck are still being worked out.

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