What brought you to the First Coast?
We visited my in-laws in Atlantic Beach for many years before we moved to Ponte Vedra, so we knew and loved the area. In 2013, my whole family moved here, including my mother from Austin and my brother and his family, who now live here part-time. Previously, my husband Giff and I lived in NYC and its suburbs (in New York and Connecticut), where we both worked as writers in various ad agencies. Our son Jake enjoys Ponte Vedra and has fond memories of his childhood visits here. We still laugh about “bikini bridge” when we drive over Dames Point Bridge which resembles two bikinis – a landmark on our drive from the airport to our annual week at the beach.
What do you enjoy most about living in Ponte Vedra Beach?
I love having something in bloom in my garden 365 days a year, living in flip flops and having winter marked by sweaters, not snow shovels. We canoe in Guana River, swim in the ocean in the early evenings of summer (please don’t tell me that’s when sharks feed!) and yell across the house at each other to announce every amazing creature that appears outside our windows.
I’ll never forget seeing my first roseate spoonbills. The flock stopped traffic on Mickler and people jumped out of their cars to snap pictures. Last month, I spent 10 days photographing spoonbills to debunk the claim that they’re not seen in the lake east of the Outpost. I’m also a fan of a larger variety of “bird” that’s indigenous to Jacksonville – the Blue Angels! We especially enjoy Ponte Vedra’s proximity to St. Augustine and all the fantastic concert venues nearby.
You are one of the driving forces behind the Save Guana Now campaign aimed at preventing a housing development from being built on The Outpost. What prompted you to co-found this campaign?
SaveGuanaNow.org Co-Founder Gary Coulliette and I were initially prompted by the fear of 770 additional car trips that 77 homes would generate on Neck Road – emptying onto Mickler Road in both directions. The two major intersections those additional cars on Mickler will hit first – Palm Valley going west, and A1A going east – were deemed “failing” in the recent traffic study. Imagine adding 770 car trips to two failing intersections on a hurricane evacuation route. As I researched Guana and learned about the detrimental impact that development could have on the preserve surrounding the Outpost, the environmental issues became a huge concern for me. Ponte Vedra has the only national estuarine research reserve on Florida’s East Coast and we must be good stewards of it. I receive emails all the time from people who are outraged that anyone is even considering developing 99 acres of conservation land surrounded by the GTMNERR.
You were also one of the local residents who spoke out against allowing digital billboards in St. Johns County – opposition that was credited with prompting the digital billboard industry to withdraw its application. Have you always been active in issues involving development and the environment?
I was deeply involved in the effort to stop an IKEA megastore from being built in a residential area in New Rochelle, New York, where eminent domain was being used to take people’s homes away – for a furniture store! It was a long, tough battle with a happy ending – but not for IKEA. I’m sure their plans for a Jacksonville store are better thought out.
In Greenwich, I advocated against the gruesome, animal-butchering “art” of Damien Hirst, and learned that you can’t criticize anything that hangs in a museum without being accused of advocating for censorship. Personal attacks are a deflection strategy. I see it every time Gate attacks our motives for opposing development of the Outpost.
Development, traffic and related issues are a big topic of concern in Ponte Vedra today. What do you think are some possible solutions for preserving Ponte Vedra’s character and beauty?
Planned growth is the answer. Putting 77 homes on conservation land at the end of a no-outlet street that already has 138 properties on it, and imperiling protected land, water and wildlife in the process, is the polar opposite of planned growth. A few other thoughts.... More employers should encourage telecommuting to reduce traffic. I have an internet business, TexasFireframe.com, and I can run it from behind my desk. Skype is a great alternative to traveling to meetings. Also, to help preserve Ponte Vedra’s beauty, we need a stronger tree ordinance, county wide!