ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Six weeks after St. Augustine’s City Commission voted to move the 148-year-old Confederate monument from the Plaza de la Constitucion in downtown St. Augustine, City Manager Reagan has reviewed proposals for where to relocate it and is recommending a site at Trout Creek Fish Camp on State Road 13 being offered the property’s owner, Randy Ringhaver.
City staff reviewed several offers to host the monument built to remember Confederate soldiers killed in the Civil War but wanted to ensure it was either on public property or a site that would guarantee public access. A request to move the monument to the National Cemetery adjacent to the National Guard Headquarters was denied by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. Several other sites would either be controlled by private landowners or be outside St. Johns County.
Ringhaver’s proposal for Trout Creek Fish Camp includes a building, a park setting with lighting, sidewalks and seating so that the memorial could be visited for generations to come and Additionally, Ringhaver offered to create a foundation to manage the property and upkeep.
“The denial from the Veteran’s Administration to relocate the memorial to our local National Cemetery, nor any other national cemetery, made it clear that Mr. Ringhaver’s proposal provides the best solution,” Regan said. “His offer not only preserves the memorial but also provides the respect that the City Commission requires, and the community demands in determining an appropriate final location.”
The current plan was to store the memorial at the city’s Public Works compound on West King Street until a suitable site was found, but the City Commission could vote Aug. 10 to approve Regan’s recommendation that it be moved to the Trout Creek Fish Camp.
The city executed a $230,000 contract with New York-based Progressive Construction to move the memorial either to the city Public Works compound where it would be temporarily stored or to a final location. Additional options for storage and a second move were also listed.
“The key thing is not the money. The key thing is that we need the goals of the city commission and our community which is about making sure that the memorial is relocated but preserved and available for public viewing,” Regan said. “You’re going to a see a higher work effort throughout the community to understand what the real issues in society are and what we can do about it.”
City archeologists have conducted a preliminary investigation and believe the memorial to be in a stable position to move it. As the move proceeds, if any subsurface site conditions deviate from their findings, the contractor will stop to allow the archaeology team to further investigate.
Mobilization and relocation of the Confederate memorial is expected to be completed within three to four weeks.
RIGHT NOW: Roughly 30 minutes after the St. Augustine commission voted 3-2 in favor of moving a confederate memorial from the Plaza De La Constitucion, crews have now put up a fence to place plywood to cover the memorial. @wjxt4 pic.twitter.com/sZ5ypvAgUi— Corley Peel (@WJXT_CorleyPeel) June 23, 2020
The monument has drawn curiosity among visitors for generations, and the battle over its fate is not new. In 2018, a committee came up with a compromise and added plaques at the foot of the monument to put the memorial in the context of slavery.
Since the June decision to relocate the monument, there have been protests by both those opposed to its removal and those who want it to be moved and a lawsuit brought by descendants of Confederate soldiers listed inscribed on the monument, the Ladies Memorial Association (the organization that first put up the monument), Sons of Confederate Veterans and Save Southern Heritage Inc. Florida.
Another Confederate memorial in downtown St. Augustine -- a bust of Gen. William Loring -- is owned by the state of Florida and is managed by the University of Florida. The city has no jurisdiction over it and its fate was not up for discussion.