Protesters fight partial closure of Mickler's Beach

Beachgoers, environmental activists say 4 days of public access still not enough

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Beachgoers and environmental activists against the partial closure of Mickler's Beach headed down to the beach Monday to voice their opposition.  

St. Johns County officials have amended the previous schedule for Mickler's Landing Beachfront Park to allow public access four days of the week (Monday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday). 

After considerable pushback from county residents and beachgoers, both the park and parking lot will now be closed for construction activity only three days a week (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday), instead of five.

But some beachgoers say it's still not enough. Protesters said they want beach access to be open to them seven days a week. 

"We just want to get the beach open to the public," said Nicole Crosby, Never Endanger Sea Turtles, or NEST, organizer. "It's as simple as that."

The group of local beachgoers and environmental activists met Monday at Mickler's with a clear message: "It's our beach."

"There's a lot of people that need access to the beach. Public beach paid for and maintained by tax dollars, we need access to it seven days a week" said Mickler's Landing beachgoer Sandy Rell. 

According to county commissioners, the project forcing the beach closure includes new restrooms, showers and changing rooms. But the group of protesters said Mickler's closure is not only for these improvements. Thirteen private homeowners want to install geotubes on Ponte Vedra Beach and the group said that's affecting the public's beach access.

Mickler's Beach parking lot is being used to stage the installation of geotubes, which are basically large tubes of sand designed to assist with beach erosion and storm surge. 

"How come they're closing down our public beach and our parking lot for their work, their yard work essentially?" questioned Mickler's Landing beachgoer Theresa Lindner. 

On Friday, the NEST said in a Facebook post:

"Despite St. Johns County, Florida commissioners voting to recommend reopening Mickler's Beach, it's now closed three days a week (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday) so that 13 oceanfront homeowners can have exclusive access to it for the installation of their turtle nest-destroying geotubes. They're not even willing to use their two empty lots on the beach for access."

According to a petition that launched online last week, the 13 beachfront homeowners had given their approval to have them installed.

Organizers of Monday's meeting say four days of public access is still not enough. They're reaching out to commissioners and the homeowners with proposals for full public access. Ideas discussed Monday included possible access from Ponte Vedra Boulevard during restricted hours and nighttime construction work.

"The ideal situation would be for them to either allow us to coexist as was originally agreed to by the county commissioners or they'll have to leave," Lindner said. "If it's not possible to coexist, then I guess they need to go somewhere else."

Organizers of Monday's meeting said one of the homeowners --.Tabitha Furyk, who is married to pro golfer Jim Furyk -- reached out to the group about wanting to help them get full public access. The group is going to present the ideas they discussed with Furyk to commissioners later this week. 

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