Mussallem Beachfront Park
About Mussallem Beachfront Park
The Mussallem Beachfront Park property is an 8.5 acre site located in eastern St. Johns County. It is bordered on the east by the Atlantic Ocean and on the west by the Intracoastal Waterway. It is accessible from Highway A1A.
The entire project site consists of native forested vegetative communities that have not been subjected to significant disturbances or alteration as a result of current or past human activities. There is one acre east of A1A, which includes beach dune, and unconsolidated substrate, which has been a frequent nesting beach for Sea Turtles in the past. The western portion of the property is 5 acres maritime hammock, 2 acres of tidally influenced salt marsh and around 1/3 of an acre of upland islands mixed throughout the salt marsh that are adjacent to the Tolomato River. Previously a portion, which encompasses approximately 1 acre of dune and hammock on the west side of A1A, was removed to demonstrate the location of a shared access road for the proposed developments.
The maritime hammock is in excellent condition and contains beautiful examples of the relationships of the key plants within this community. It is bounded by a dune to the east that ranges from 8-10 feet high, except for the northeast corner where the dune has been removed and the tidal marsh to the west. The area of the hammock that is exposed because of the loss of the dune has been negatively impacted by the dominant northeast wind, and its health will improve once the dune area has been restored. The interior of the hammock remains in pristine condition. The beach dune community is in good condition. Its health has been compromised due to the location of the road; however, minimal planting of more sea oats, beach morning glory, and dune panic grass can enhance the health of the beach dune community. The tidal marsh community is in excellent health and it has tremendous value since most of the surrounding marsh is either privately owned or out of the view of the general public. The black needle rush, salt marsh cordgrass, and saltwort are surrounded by beautiful pockets of upland islands that allow for a nice viewing area for the public to enjoy this habitat.
The beachfront portion of the park has been a nesting location for Sea Turtles and its continued protection will enable the turtles to nest here for the future. The loggerhead, green, and leatherback turtles all require beaches without interference from lights to ensure a successful emergence of hatchlings and a safe journey for them to the ocean. The creation of a passive park in this area has preserved the health of this important stretch of beach.
Mussallem Beachfront Park is located in a high probability archaeological area, with two properties listed on the Florida Master Site File nearby. Acquisition of this site through a grant with the Florida Communities Trust removed it from future potential development. Significant neighborhood opposition to this development brought this property to the attention of St. Johns County for acquisition as a community park. The County is working with the adjacent property developer to co-locate access roads and parking and landscaping to minimize impacts to the fragile dune ecosystem, as well as the variety of wildlife that make this park their home.
Funding sources for acquisition of this site included the St. Johns County General Fund, impact fees, and commercial paper. These funds were matched by a Florida Communities Trust grant award for joint acquisition with St. Johns County.