Fish Island is a 72-acre parcel comprising uplands, which support a maritime forest and a bald eagle nest, and wetland areas, which support an extensive marsh habitat located on the Matanzas River on the south-eastern side of the Mickler-O'Connell (312) Bridge. In the summer of 2018, developer, D.R. Horton sought to clear-cut and fill Fish Island to construct 170 new homes. At the first Planning and Zoning Board meeting, they downplayed the ecological and historic value of the property. At the second meeting, over a hundred members of the community showed up and pushed back. The PZB unanimously denied the development proposal. D.R. Horton did not appeal that decision. Now we are working together with members of our community to permanently preserve this land.
The clear-cutting that has already taken place in preparation for the Antigua development on the northern side of the 312 bridge shows the dramatic contrast of what Fish Island looks like now and what it would look like if developed.
Fish Island is named for Jesse Fish, whom, depending on the historical account, was either a savior and a saint or a traitor and a thief. Regardless of his moral fiber, it is well established that Fish was a wealthy man, and that he acquired substantial land holdings in St. Augustine (including most of Anastasia Island) during the transition between St. Augustine’s first Spanish period and its British period. Fish established his homestead and orange plantation, called El Vergel, on what we now know as Fish Island. El Vergel was likely one of the first commercial orange groves in Florida, germinating an industry that would become an economic driver and immortalize the iconic fruit as a symbol of our state.
For a more in-depth look at the history of Fish Island, here is a citizen's perspective on what we stand to lose if Fish Island is developed: