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Public Trust Environmental Legal Institute of Florida, Inc
2029 North Third Street
Jacksonville Beach
Florida 32250
(904) 247-1972 x418

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The Village of Mayport is an historic, quaint fishing village. Scholars believe Jean Ribault landed here in 1562, two years before the establishment of Ft. Caroline which predates both St. Augustine and Jamestown.

Mayport has existed as a shrimping and fishing village and has been responsible for the peaceful upbringing of countless Floridians. Today the livelihoods and the very existence of the people of Mayport are threatened.

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Several months ago the Jacksonville Port Authority (Jaxport) asked the Jacksonville City Council to pass three related ordinances which would allow Jaxport to build a cruise ship terminal on the banks of the St. Johns River in the tiny Village of Mayport. Those ordinances include 2008-892, a land use amendment; 2008-893, a rezoning; and 2008-970, a text amendment to the comprehensive plan.

The Mayport Civic Association, along with many Mayport residents, vehemently objected to the construction of the cruise ship terminal and the Public Trust agreed to join the fight.

In addition to the multitude of objections of the Mayport residents, the Public Trust was particularly concerned with the negative effects a cruise ship terminal and the associated cruise ship traffic would cause on the surrounding environment. Air pollution, effluent and hazardous waste discharge, stormwater runoff, wildlife, and visual blight were all concerns which the Public Trust argued Jaxport, and the Jacksonville City Council, should have addressed before taking any further steps. These effects are all particularly threatening considering the close proximity the cruise ship terminal would have with the Timucuan Ecological Preserve and the St. Johns River. By way of example, the following is a short list of the potential threats the Public Trust was fighting to prevent:

  • The cruise terminal, if allowed, would be placed within the Timucuan Ecological Preserve, one of the jewels of Jacksonville.
  • Jaxport reluctantly agreed to mandate that cruise ships use California low sulphur fuel in port. While an improvement from the earlier threat of bunker-c fuel, nothing short of shore power would prevent the emission of nitrogen compounds from ships hotelling in port for 8 hours at a time. These emissions are known to cause eutrophication and algal blooms, and Jaxport refused to mandate the use of shore power.
  • Discharges from cruise ships are known to contain many pathogens of concern to human health, including: salmonella, shigella, hepatitis, and gastro intestinal viruses.
  • Discharges from cruise ships are known to cause beach closings due to unacceptable levels of fecal contamination.
  • Even when cruise ships employ Advanced Waste Water Treatment Systems, they do not eliminate metals which can bioaccumulate in the food supply.
  • Waste water from ships contains nitrogen and phosphorous that promote excessive algal growth, which in turn consumes oxygen in the water and can lead to fish kills and the destruction of other aquatic life, including coral. Algal blooms alone have been implicated in the deaths of more than 150 manatees off the coast of Florida.

To address these and other concerns, the Public Trust, on behalf of the Mayport Civic Association and several Mayport residents, entered into negotiations with Jaxport in December of 2008. After receiving an initial proposal from Jaxport, the Public Trust consulted with the concerned parties to draft additional protective measures. These measures were added to the initial proposal and sent back to Jaxport through a mediator.

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After receiving Jaxport's reply the Mayport Civic Association and the concerned residents decided that they could not accept the proposal. Although Jaxport made several concessions that benefitted both parties, they nevertheless failed to adequately address core concerns respecting the environment and the viability of the shrimping and fishing industry. As a specific example, Jaxport refused to guarantee that all ships docked at the terminal would use shore power, an alternative that would have eliminated sulfur and NOx emissions.

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For the last few months the Public Trust has collaborated with the citizens of Mayport who have worked tirelessly researching and compiling valuable information.

Our communal efforts have led to a number of successes, including several re-referrals of the proposed ordinances to their respective committees.

During this process we applauded the City Council for reconsidering their actions and believe that the City of Jacksonville benefited from a more slow and deliberate process. The Public Trust also gave several interviews and press conferences to increase public awareness to this controversy.

And on February 12, 2009, a documentary by two local film-makers, Josh Hansbrough and Justin Anderson, premiered at the Atlantic Theaters in Atlantic Beach.

The film highlighted the rich history of Mayport and described their current struggle to save their village and protect the Timucuan Preserve.

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Most recently, less than one month from the date the Public Trust filed their amended complaint against Jaxport and the City of Jacksonville, the biggest victory to date was won. In a rather discrete manner, the Board if Directors for the Jacksonville Port Authority unanimously approved Resolution BD0903-02 without any question or comment from the board, and thereby withdrew the proposed small scale amendment and rezoning ordinances from the City Council agenda, and removed any reference to a Mayport Cruise Terminal from their Port Master Plan! This action effectively killed the proposed terminal for the foreseeable future and was a huge victory for citizen advocacy. The people of Mayport refused to bow to the powerful Jaxport, and instead organized their forces and stood up for their rights. David-1, Goliath-0. To view a video of the press conference please click here .

However, even with all of these successes we are far from our ultimate goal. Mayport will in effect be held hostage for as long as Jaxport sits on the waterfront property, but the people of Mayport are not sitting idly by. Rather, every Tuesday night at 7pm at Singleton's Restaurant on Ocean Street, the residents of Mayport meet to draft grant applications and openly and collectively plan the revitalization of Mayport. Everyone who is interested in this process is invited to attend. It is our hope that these meetings, and future planning sessions held in the sunshine, will soon make Mayport a place for eco-tourism; an access point for the Timucuan Preserve, Dutton Island, and St. Johns River; and a true working waterfront that serves as an economic engine for all of Jacksonville.

And finally, it is important to remember that our lawsuits against Jaxport and the City of Jacksonville are still pending as the Sunshine Law violations do not go away with the Jaxport Board's most recent decision, and the Public Trust is prepared to pursue these claims to the fullest extent of the law. And although the Public Trust is providing its legal assistance to the Mayport Civic Association and the residents of Mayport free of charge, such efforts are not cost free. Indeed the Public Trust has already incurred considerable expenses while working to protect the interests of Mayport. A small portion of these expenses has been offset by the generous donation of our members, but much more assistance is needed.

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For this reason we ask all who wish to stand up for the rights of the Village of Mayport to join the fight and become members of the Public Trust. Your $25.00 donation will not only grant you a one-year membership, it will also allow the Public Trust to advocate for the protection of our air, water, manatees and dolphins, landscape, even the health of our citizenry.

If you choose to become a member of the Public Trust your donation of only $25.00 will be tax deductible, as we are a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. But this financial benefit to you is secondary to the knowledge that you have taken advantage of the opportunity to stand up for what you believe.

We at the Public Trust are guided by the principle that northeast Florida is blessed with beautiful and unique "special places" which deserve protection. We hope that you agree with this principle and also wish to do your part to save the areas that we so thankfully call home.

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For more information on how to become a member of the Public Trust, please click on the "Donate Now" button found in the menu above. If you donate $25.00 or more you will automatically become a member of the Public Trust unless you indicate otherwise.