Nease Beachfront Park
Nease Park is located 1 mile north of the St. Augustine Inlet on A1A Scenic & Historic Coastal Byway about 230 feet from the Atlantic Ocean. The Nease Park site is located within the vicinity of the Vilano Waterfront Community boundary area designated as a Community Redevelopment Area (CRA). Nease park site was the previous residence of Allen Nease built in the 1950’s on the eastern central edge of a 3.2 acre site.
There is a dense wind and salt pruned coastal scrub and live oak hammock located adjacent to A1A Scenic & Historic Coastal Byway. The live oak (Quercus virginiana) is interspersed with red cedar (Juniperus silicicola) along the marsh fringe. The coastal understory consist of saw palmetto (Serenoa reopens) and yaupon holy (Ilex vomitoria) that is interspersed with some myrtle oak (Ouercus mytifolia). The site topography varies slightly where the high marsh gradually slopes into the low marsh on the western edge of the property. The high marsh consist of salt grasses (Distichlis spicata), sand cordgrass (Spartina bakeri) and salt meadow cord grass (Spartina patens) that gradually slopes into the low marsh consisting of nine (9) small scrub islands sporatically located among the smooth cord grass (Spartina alterniflora) and black mangroves (Avicennia germinans).
The saltwater marsh community provides habitat for several state listed species of special concern (SCC) classified as wading birds that include white ibis, snowy egret, tri-colored heron, little blue heron and one endangered species the wood stork. The colorful painted bunting can be observed on this site, which is enjoyed by so many bird watchers, as well as the Florida scrub jay and the gopher tortoise.
The Allen Nease residence is listed on the Florida Master Site File (8SJ4962). The majority of the listed structure was built in the 1930’s and 1940’s Mr. Nease was a pioneer of Florida’s reforestation and conservation efforts in the mid-20th century. The unique interior of this home reflects the owner’s professional forestry background. This home contains heart pine wood floors, 12-inch bald cypress wall planking, native hardwood ceiling planking and solid bald cypress ceiling beams in the living room.
Allen Nease graduation from North Carolina State University and went to work with the US Forest Service in the Apalachicola National Forest where he planted trees, supervised timber sales and fought “redneck poachers” who were undermining his efforts. In 1940 he was hired by the Florida Forest Service as the first County Forester in the state, selling the need for forest and soil conservation all the way from Suwannee to Washington County. Because Allen Nease planted over 55 million pine trees throughout the north Florida area from Pensacola to St. Augustine he became known as “Johnny Pine Tree” (instead of Johnny Apple seed). In 1947 Allen Nease came to St. Johns County to mange 17,000 acres of over cut, overworked timberland for Robinson Improvement Company where he established a re-forestry program.
In 1971 Allen Nease was elected to the St. Johns County School Board where he served as Chairman for 17 years and became the School Board’s driving force for 24 years. While on the School Board, Mr. Nease won the battle to build and develop what is now known as the First Coast Technical College. From 1971-1984 until his death, Mr. Nease continued his timber growing and conservation efforts on his personal land holdings.
Recreational and Cultural Opportunities
The county has an excellent opportunity to preserve this historically significant home site as well as preserved the natural vegetative communities on site. The park site will only be modified slightly to accommodate beach access, some beach parking and the home will be turned into county offices for a staff naturalist and habitat conservation person, as well as establishing an environmental and historical education and interpretation displays. Anticipated new recreational facilities include bocce ball court, horseshoe pits, multi-use area, picnic and outdoor grilling area, nature trails and trail head, scenic wildlife observation platform and bird watching. In addition, cultural activities will be offered at this park site for the Vilano residents.
Because this project site is located within the Florida Forever Northeast Florida Blueway Phase II, this site is just another piece of a massive puzzle that interconnects federal, state and local initiatives to preserve, protect and maintain the natural resources (vegetative communities, wildlife habitat, improve water quality and protect shellfish harvesting areas) along the Intracoastal Waterway. The federal initiative is being pursued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and it’s administered through the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in the implementation of the Guana, Tolomato, Matanzas (GTM) National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) Management Plan. Other State initiatives being pursued by DEP and the SJRWMD include the GTM Water Quality Task Force and Northern Coastal Basins Program, respectively.