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Congressmen Want Parts of the First Coast to be a National Heritage Area

October 8, 2019 - 7:00am
John Rutherford, Al Lawson and Michael Waltz
John Rutherford, Al Lawson and Michael Waltz

On Monday, congressmen from the First Coast showcased a proposal preserving historical landmarks in the region as part of a National Heritage Area (NHA). 

The “Nation’s Oldest Port National Heritage Area Act” would cover parts of  Duval, St. Johns and Flagler Counties as NHAs. 

The bill was introduced by U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., at the end of last month. U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, D-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., are cosponsoring it. 

“St. Augustine and the entire First Coast is home to countless places of historical significance,” said Rutherford. “From rich Native American and African American history to the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the United States, Northeast Florida’s cultural heritage sites are deserving of this national recognition that will ensure they exist for future generations. I thank the team at the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum and all who have worked for many years to achieve this designation. I also want to thank Congressman Waltz and Congressman Lawson for joining me in this effort to forever preserve our cherished landmarks, landscapes and culture.”  

“Northeast Florida is filled with natural beauty, historical assets and countless resources we need to preserve,” Waltz said. “Our area is one of the oldest, most historical areas in our country, so it’s important we protect and preserve these areas for visitors and residents.

“I’m proud to work with Reps. Rutherford and Lawson to honor our area’s role in America’s history and I hope our colleagues in the House will support this bill,” Waltz added.

The bill was sent to the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee at the end of last month. So far, there is no companion bill over in the U.S. Senate. 


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As former Secretary of State responsible for historic preservation at a state level, I applaud Congressmen Rutherford, Lawson and Waltz for taking a leadership role to recognize and thus preserve the unique history of St. Augustine and Northeast Florida. I would hope that Senator Marco Rubio would provide leadership in the Senate by sponsoring the necessary companion bill to insure this Federal recognition and protection receives full congressional consideration as soon as possible. Bruce Smathers

Not a bad idea! Saint Augustine has never gotten the historical respect it deserves as a European settlement in America some 60+ years before the Pilgrims ever thought about Plimouth Plantation. Pensacola may be in that same category. The Protestants have gotten all the press and pages in the history books - while the Catholics have been completely disregarded!

Why "play around",... let's designate the entire State (and maybe even give these pettifoggers, and their ilk, some modicum of "status" along the way...); [You might even include fawning cub reporter Kevin Derby in that empty largesse]

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