Plan to Preserve and Enhance American Beach Recognized by NEFRC

Awards, Projects | February 08, 2023


A photo of palm trees alongside a street and colorful houses on either side

NASSAU COUNTY, FL – Plans to enhance American Beach on Amelia Island in Florida have received a new accolade from the Northeast Florida Regional Council (NEFRC). The American Beach Community Master Plan, developed with the help of Benesch, was selected to receive an excellence award for cultural and historic preservation.

“It’s great to see this plan and the community acknowledged by the NEFRC,” said Project Manager Ennis Davis. “By working closely with the community, and carefully listening to their ideas, concerns and stories, we were able to develop a plan that I believe honors and preserves the history of American Beach while helping revitalize it economically for the county.”

A photo of the historic American Beach welcome sign
American Beach was designated to the National Register of Historic Places on January 28, 2002.

Developed by and for African Americans in 1935, American Beach long served as a popular destination for beach vacationers during segregation. Though several factors, including integration and Hurricane Dora, ultimately led to the economic decline of the area, American Beach has retained its unique sense of place and historical significance.

In the process of developing a vision for county owned spaces and infrastructure projects, Nassau County turned its attention to enhancing American Beach for residents and visitors. The initiative initially received a mixed reception. While the community acknowledged the need for infrastructure improvements, increasing tourism was less appealing for residents.

“American Beach has a unique and important history that has shaped many of the residents’ views, and work had to be done to build trust with the government in order for this initiative to succeed. By working in the community and getting to know the residents, I was able to ensure nothing was lost in translation,” said Davis. “This helped relieve tension and reassure the community that the county understood their concerns.”

Through a series of public involvement activities, the following were identified as being most important to the community: public infrastructure enhancements, rehabilitation of Evans Rendezvous (American Beach Historic Park), support for A.L. Lewis Museum and American Beach history, and preservation of American Beach sense of place. With these objectives at the heart of the initiative, recommendations were outlined in the master plan along with a detailed history of the area and implementation strategy.

“Maintaining a high level of transparency with community members is vital to the success of this project. With the master plan covering the past, present and future of American Beach in such great detail, we were able to show residents that this work has their best interest in mind and will bring positive changes,” said Davis.

The master plan was completed in July 2022 and the county is already making headway on many of the projects. For updates and to view the master plan, visit the county website.