Save Fish Island

BFC property Holdings Inc., a subsidiary of the Gate Petroleum Company has submitted preliminary plans to the City to build a Gate Express Carwash directly beside the entrance to this community’s crown jewel, our beloved Fish Island. These preliminary plans include a 5,089SF building with a height of over 28 feet, with 24 vacuum stations. The visual blight and noise pollution generated from this multitude of open auto vacuum stations and machinery of a carwash of this size and scope will rob Fish Island’s wildlife and its visitors of its quiet, beautiful solitude, that we all fought so long and hard to protect.   Stormwater from a carwash has no place near these historic and hallowed grounds, this gentle wildlife refuge, and our pristine intracoastal waterway. 
Here are two ways that you can help:


We have received notice that the St. Johns River Water Management District will be approving the Environmental Resource Permit for the Gate car wash at the entrance to Fish Island Preserve. While this is not surprising, it is still disappointing. We will continue to fight for our natural resources through other avenues.
Gate maintains that there are no “significant trees” (as defined by the St. Augustine Land Development Code) on the property where they want to build a car wash - that is simply not the case. Consultation with numerous experts in tree identification have verified that there are, in fact, multiple significant trees within the car wash footprint. In order to remove a significant tree within the City of St. Augustine, an applicant must get approval from the Planning and Zoning Board (PZB) at a public meeting. This would provide residents an opportunity to let their voices be heard. To avoid this process, Gate claimed that the trees on Fish Island are not significant. After months of opposition from Gate, the City hired an independent arborist to conduct a survey of the property. This survey confirmed what we already knew - that there are multiple significant trees within the car wash’s building footprint, which means that a public hearing and PZB approval is required. Stay tuned for details on the PZB meeting. That is when we will need your voices again.

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Why are we opposed to the carwash at the entrance of Fish Island?

Fish Island was saved thanks in part to a community-wide grassroots effort

  • Fish Island was saved due to an unprecedented and massive community grassroots effort and may well be one of the most cherished community accomplishments in recent times. 
  • Fish Island is beloved and honored by the people in our community as a place of historical significance, containing fragile archeological resources and human burials, preserved now under Florida Forever as conservation lands, a wildlife habitat, and place where wild Florida may still be experienced and appreciated.
  • The community, all the people, who went to meetings, wrote letters, showed up for the clean-up do not want a carwash next to fish island. 
  • These people are consumers who support Gate businesses and who live and work in St Augustine and St Johns County.
  • A carwash is not compatible with Fish Island due to the significance of Fish Island’s archeological, historical, and diverse cultural heritage.


  • If constructed, the car wash’s stormwater treatment system will destroy trees, wildlife habitat, and unknown artifacts and create a path of destruction through Fish Island and into the Matanzas.
  • Construction of a carwash next to the Matanzas River would increase risks of spills and runoff of harmful pollutants
  • The Matanzas River is one of the last rivers in northeast Florida that is still clean enough to swim, fish, and harvest oysters from. It should be be subject from chemical runoff from a carwash.

Historic Significance

  • Fish Island has been listed on National Register of Historic Places since 1972 and in 2019 was listed by Florida Trust for Historic Preservation as one of Florida’s eleven most threatened historic properties.
  • Artifacts dating back 4000 years are evidence of prehistoric occupation by Native Americans on Fish Island.
  • Fish Island is the site of Jesse Fish’s 18th Century commercial orange plantation, and represents the very origins of commercial orange industry in Florida and in the nation. Archeological ruins of the plantation home, well, block house, Fish tomb, wharf, channels, still exist, as well as, an area of proposed Slave quarters.

Historic evidence shows that there are people buried in unmarked graves on Fish Island

  • Jesse Fish used labor of enslaved people to operate his orange plantation. Records show 133 enslaved African people registered with Fish listed as owner. 83 of these enslaved African people were children between the ages 5 and 16. The youngest of Fish’s Slaves was a 5 year-old girl named Melchora. Evidence suggests that many of these people were likely buried on Fish Island in unmarked graves.  
  • Records describing four Protestant burials on Fish Island also exists.
  • The idea and optics of running dirty carwash stormwater through a place that was once a plantation where enslaved people lived, labored and likely died, and where we have actual evidence that Protestant burials exist is disrespectful and insensitive.


  • A Carwash is not a compatible use due to loud noise from vacuum stations that will scare and harm wildlife and rob visitors of the quiet enjoyment Fish Island provides.
  • A Carwash has no place at the entry corridor of Anastasia Island.

Read the Story in the St. Augustine Record

Watch the Report on First Coast News

Sign the Petition

Read the Statement from Friends of Fish Island