Many of artist’s Eugene Quinn’s paintings show of the beauty and serenity of the Guana Nature Preserve, and he’s helping an area nonprofit group try and keep it that way.
Quinn hosted a fundraiser at his Coquina Studio Gallery last week in Jacksonville Beach with a portion of his proceeds going to benefit the Save Guana Now project, which aims to stop planned development at The Outpost, a 99-acre parcel of land which has been a designated conservation area since 1984.
Quinn said he was inspired to help the group after meeting Save Guana Now co-founder Nicole Crosby, and because of his fond memories of childhood trips to the area.
It was the first time I learned to paint on location,” Quinn said of his oil paintings at the Preserve. “I honestly didn’t appreciate it as much as I do now.”
Quinn grew up in New Jersey and would spend summers at the Beaches and Ponte Vedra when his parents would come down for golf trips. He relocated to the Beaches area around three years ago and opened his Jacksonville Beach gallery about a year ago, drawing inspiration from the ocean and scenery surrounding Northeast Florida.
“There’s so little left that isn’t developed,” Quinn said of finding untouched landscapes, which is why the Guana Preserve holds a special place in his heart.
Efforts by the Ponte Vedra Corp., a subsidiary of Gate Petroleum, are underway to try to get 76 acres of The Outpost rezoned for residential use, along with a planned proposal to add more than 60 new homes to the area.
According to the Save Guana Now’s website, the Outpost has “significant historical value and meets important ecological criterion that warrant its protection.”
Crosby says Save Guana Now is trying to halt this change and planned development for a myriad of reasons, most notably the invasion of wildlife that inhabits the land and traffic issues and safety concerns for residents already in the area.
“First of all, from an environmental standpoint, it’s very important, because the Outpost property is almost completely surrounded by the Guana Preserve,” Crosby said. “Therefore, if it’s developed there will be great fragmentation of wild space, which is known to be one of the leading causes of decline of animal populations.”
Crosby also pointed out other negative impacts like the potential of contamination of Guana Lake and traffic concerns.
“They want to put this on the end of a dead-end road,” Crosby said. “There are already about 130 homes on that road, and they want to add 66 more homes. That’s going to add approximately 600-plus trips per day on that road. It’s going to add to congestion that already exists on Mickler’s and A1A.
Crosby said funds raised by Save Guana Now will go to land consultants and attorneys to help fight the proposed development. She said the mission of the nonprofit is to continue to raise awareness and to add to the number of people who are interested in preventing development of the Outpost.
Crosby said Save Guana Now understands The Outpost is private property, but that the group wants to make sure the land is treated properly.
“We’re saying abide by the law, which is that you can’t build on conservation land,” Crosby said. “They feel they have a legal basis to build on the land, and we firmly believe they do not.”
A public hearing hasn’t been set, but St. Johns County issued a statement last month that it was waiting on the Ponte Vedra Corp. to address 25 technical issues, which include conflicts with water/sewer provider and more detailed transportation planning.
Crosby said the ball is now in Ponte Vedra Corp.’s court.
“We’re ready whenever a hearing is announced,” she said.