Amelia Island is a stunning seaside community that invokes pride in residents and visitors alike for its unique combination of natural and historic features. Boasting an incredible tree canopy, proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, and the calming marshes along the Intracoastal Waterway, as well as a thriving historic center and deep cultural heritage, Amelia Island is a slice of paradise.
Yet with all the wonders Amelia Island provides, many of its natural and historic landscapes are disappearing. Amelia Island resident Pam Hart, who used to live in Waycross, Georgia, noticed the changes and the development happening on the island as she visited year after year. Ironically, Hart served on the Waycross and Ware County Development Authority, which was trying to bring in more businesses and development into that part of Georgia. While her home was lacking the development it needed to thrive, Hart saw Amelia Island’s development beginning to get out of hand.
Hart decided to get involved with the North Florida Land Trust, chairing its newest committee called Amelia Forever, which purchases or receives donations of land and conservation easements, as well as facilitating conservation transactions for public agencies. Formed in 2019, Amelia Forever partners with the City of Fernandina Beach and other conservation groups to plan fundraisers, create informational material, and raise awareness about land conservation among local residents and businesses.
In their first year, Amelia Forever has raised over $800,000, managing to purchase, in partnership with the City of Fernandina Beach, three parcels of land adjacent to the ecologically significant Egans Creek Greenway. “The Greenway is one of my favorite places on Amelia Island,” says Hart. “Preserving our natural spaces is so important right now. If we don’t do it, it will be lost forever.”
Thanks to the interest of residents in pursuing conservation efforts on the island, and Amelia Forever’s existing partnerships with Amelia Tree Conservancy, the City of Fernandina Beach, and Nassau County, the effort burgeoned into a community-wide effort to protect the island’s precious natural resources. “Amelia Forever’s Board is a very hardworking, accomplished group of people, who are now turning their talents to helping preserve the quality of life on Amelia,” says Hart.
The current goal of the Amelia Forever campaign is to preserve Little NaNa Dune, a part of the tallest dune in Florida and located within the historic Black community of American Beach. The preservation of Little NaNa Dune supports a longstanding vision to protect the natural integrity of the area championed by the late MaVynee Betsch, an American environmentalist affectionately called “The Beach Lady.” Ms. Betsch lived in American Beach, where she remained an activist for its preservation until she died in September 2005. In preserving Little NaNa Dune, NFLT joins the Friends of American Beach, the American Beach and greater Amelia Island communities, and friends and family of MaVynee Betsch to carry forward her legacy of protecting this special place.
“The purchase of Little NaNa Dune is vital to that area of the island,” says Hart. “Last year, we managed to hold two fundraisers, which allowed us to purchase a 3-acre parcel. We held a trolley tour featuring Eve Jones narrating the historical significance of the area, along with Chad Scott discussing the ecological part of it, followed by a jazz dinner for participants. Our Jazz’N to Save Little Nana task force was led by Cynthia Jones Jackson.”
Amelia Forever had planned another event for this month, but decided to cancel because of the latest Covid-19 outbreak, but Hart and her committee members still need to get the word out and raise money to buy more land. If you want to make a donation, you can visit www.nflt.org/ameliaforever to make a pledge. If you would like to join the Amelia Forever Committee, call Hart directly at (912) 281-6205 or email her at [email protected].