1,000 signatures reached
To: Justin M. Taylor, Chairperson, Nassau County Board of Commissioners
#SaveAmericanBeach: Preserve the local heritage, culture and lifestyle of American Beach
We are urging the Nassau County Board of Commissioners to allow organized groups to continue to camp on American Beach. Currently, there is a recommendation to the commissioners from the Nassau County Beach Committee to eliminate beach camping altogether, fund additional sheriffs presence at the beaches 24 hours a day at the cost of $1 million, eliminate nighttime beach driving and parking among other things.
Our requests for the Nassau County Board of Commissioners:
1. Allow recognized organized groups such as American Beach Afrotopia, the Nightsanders, and the Beach Cats, to camp overnight with a pre-approved permit via online registration.
2. Allow "primitive" camping until new programing is implemented
3. Please take into consideration the unique historical significance of American Beach distinct from the other beach access points as it relates to goal 3 of the beach committee: "to preserve local heritage, culture and lifestyle"
4. Allow for community input in the decision making process regarding beach policies.
5. Allow 24-hour beachfront parking
Why is this important?
I can remember countless weekends that my dad took my family to American Beach. So many people from around the area have so many memories and still traditionally go to the beach - which is why when I heard a man chained himself to the beach in protest to what Nassau County is, in essence, privatizing the beach, I became upset. I realized that with so much history that surrounds that beach for my family, that if the county succeeded it would shut out any future generations in my family to enjoy the beach as well. But not only does America Beach have a history in my family, but the beach also has a deep history rooted in the Black community as well.
The tradition of African Americans camping on American Beach dates back to the inception of the community in 1935. We’ve been hosting campouts at Burney Park on historic American Beach since 2015. Other groups such as the Night Sanders and Florida Beach Cats have been camping as far back as 1998.
This beach is a historic landmark, because Abraham Lincoln Lewis, Florida's first Black millionaire, purchased 200 acres, which is now American beach. His company the Afro-American Life Insurance Company designated American Beach as a place for people of color to have a space to come for relaxation without humiliation. Over the years the beach has brought so much economic development to the area and joy for so many families. It means so much to many, so much so that A.L. Lewis' great-granddaughter, affectionally known as the "Beach Lady," gave tours and taught about the history of the beach until her death in 2005. Limiting the access and privatizing American Beach will be another way Black people will be locked out of cultural inheritance and way to erase rich Black history.
July of 2019 we hosted our largest gathering to date. Over 100 men, women, and children gathered to camp, commune with nature and learn about American Beach’s rich history. It was a beautiful, peaceful gathering without incident. A focal point of the weekend was, as always, respect for and stewardship of the natural environment of American Beach.
Soon after the July campout, we discovered the beach committee, formed at the request of Nassau county commissioners to address complaints regarding differing issues at Nassau counties four beach access points. We were shocked and dismayed to discover the conversation leaning towards major changes in beach ordinances that would severely impede our ability to carry on a long tradition of campers on American Beach, although the vast majority of the complaints related to incidents at Peters Point, another Nassau County beach.
Up until the September 26th meeting we had been led to believe that an actual system would be put in place to manage beach camping, parking, driving, etc. At the September meeting however, an abrupt change in the dialogue occurred and a decision was made to abdicate the responsibility of managing these issues and instead the proposed solution was put forth to recommend to the county commissioners the elimination of ALL camping, night driving and parking on ALL four access points, from 9 pm to 6 am by unanimous vote. Click to read the minutes and agenda of the beach committee meetings https://www.nassaucountyfl.com/DocumentCenter/Index/958
The rights of citizens to camp overnight on Nassau County Beaches are at risk. While we are concerned with camping rights on American Beach, the beach committee recommendation and upcoming BOCC vote and decision will affect a variety of beach issues on all four beach access points; such as driving, camping, parking, fines, etc.