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Anonymous donor gives $500,000 to help preserve dune at historic American Beach

A dune at the historic American Beach on Amelia Island is getting $500,000 to help with preservation. The North Florida Land Trust took out a loan to buy the property earlier this year and received a generous pledge from an anonymous donor to help pay it back. The property has more than just environmental significance.

NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – A dune at the historic American Beach on Amelia Island is getting $500,000 to help with preservation.

The North Florida Land Trust took out a loan to buy the property earlier this year and received a generous pledge from an anonymous donor to help pay it back.

The property has more than just environmental significance.

It’s one of Florida’s largest dunes and the Little Nana dune is now owned by the North Florida Land Trust. The goal is to preserve Florida’s natural beauty while also highlighting the cultural and historic significance of American Beach.

It’s a refuge for wildlife and was once a refuge for those who lived under Jim Crow laws.

An insurance entrepreneur founded American Beach in the 1930s as a getaway for Black families at a time when most beaches in the South were segregated.

“We want to help preserve the entire area and draw attention to that entire area,” said Jim McCarthy, President of the North Florida Land Trust.

Big Nana dune is part of a national park.

“We don’t want it to be developed,” McCarthy said.

As tourism drives development in North Florida, the trust’s goal is to preserve the natural beauty that attracts people from all over, but during racial justice protests last year, they turned their attention to preserving American Beach.

“This became our real focus,” McCarthy said. “A lot of folks were doing talking, we wanted to actually take action.”

The organization went into debt to buy Little Nana dune for about $1.3 million and are depending on donations to repay it.

“We’ve already raised a significant amount of money,” McCarthy said. “This half a million puts us within $150,000 of paying off the loan.”

The purchase of the dune is part of a larger effort to restore the history of American Beach like Evans’ Rendevzvous, a nightclub where performers like Ray Charles and Louis Armstrong entertained beachgoers.

A devastating hurricane and the passage of the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s led to the community’s decline, but its history as a haven is one the North Florida Land Trust says we shouldn’t soon forget.

The land trust is hoping to pay off their loan for the dune in Decemeber.


About the Author:

I-TEAM and general assignment reporter