Historically Rich Fish Island Acquired

DEP Press Release header

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 21, 2019

CONTACT: DEP Press Office, 850.245.2112, DEPNews@dep.state.fl.us

DEP Acquires Historically Rich Fish Island

Fish Island

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has purchased a 57-acre parcel known as Fish Island. The land is within the Northeast Florida Blueway Florida Forever project and is one of the last remaining undeveloped waterfront properties in the City of St. Augustine.

"Preservation of this important parcel is vital to the protection of coastal wetlands," said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. "This acquisition is essential for storm and ground water protection, which is of the utmost importance to Florida. I am grateful for our partnerships that allow us to preserve the cultural and natural resources of our state."

Acquisition of the land will protect fragile marshes, tidal creeks, uplands and historical resources. The property will be managed by the City of St. Augustine as a passive recreational park with interpretive features describing the natural amenities and archaeological resources.

“We are pleased to be a part of the partnership to conserve this important natural and cultural region of the state,” said DEP Division of State Lands Director Callie DeHaven. “We are especially thankful to have partnerships with North Florida Land Trust, the City of St. Augustine and the local community.”

“This is a significant day for the St. Augustine community who worked for more than a decade to save Fish Island from development,” said President of North Florida Land Trust Jim McCarthy. “We are happy to be a part of the efforts to preserve this natural resource. Preservation will help avoid water quality impacts to the Matanzas River. This historic property is an integral part of St. Augustine’s and Florida’s history.”

The significance of the archaeological remains on Fish Island were formally recognized when the property was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. The Fish Island Site, known as “El Vergel,” was owned by Jesse Fish and his heirs from 1760 to the 1820s. It is documented to be one of Florida’s earliest commercial fruit plantations.

“In the 1700s, Jesse Fish oversaw his citrus grove and real estate negotiations from this land in a commercial venture iconic of Florida,” said Historian and former Executive Director of St. Augustine Historical Society Dr. Susan Parker. “Miles and miles of waterfront land resembled Fish Island, but that has changed.”

Florida Forever is the state's conservation and recreation lands acquisition program, a blueprint for conserving our natural resources and renewing our commitment to conserve our natural and cultural heritage. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Division of State Lands is Florida’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship.