St. Augustine City Manager John Regan is recommending that the Confederate memorial in the Plaza de la Constitucion be relocated to the Trout Creek Fish Camp.
City Commissioners voted three to two to relocate the obelisk that bears the names of Confederate soldiers from St. Augustine that died during the Civil War during their June 22 meeting. The vote also authorized the temporary storage of the memorial.
Since that vote, the city has received several relocation proposals and staff have worked to find a new site for the monument.
The city requested that the memorial be relocated to the National Cemetery next to the National Guard Headquarters, but that request was denied by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs on the grounds that the VA only accepts monuments which commemorate people eligible for burial in a VA national cemetery (generally veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces) - a rule that applies to all national cemeteries, including the St. Augustine National Cemetery.
In an Aug. 5 memo to Mayor Tracy Upchurch and City Commissioners, City Manager John Regan recommended accepting a proposal from Randy Ringhaver, who has offered to build a foundation and a park with lighting, sidewalks, and seating for the monument at Trout Creek Fish Camp, located at 6550 FL-13 N. St. in St. Augustine.
“The denial from the Veteran’s Administration to relocate the memorial to our local National Cemetery, nor any other national cemetery, made it clear that Mr. Ringhaver’s proposal provides the best solution,” said Regan. “His offer not only preserves the memorial but also provides the respect that the City Commission requires, and the community demands in determining an appropriate final location.”
“Mr. Ringhaver has offered to construct, at his cost, a foundation that will survive the test of time beyond any typical engineering standard. The land is privately owned, but it is different from all other private land offers in that it is a commercial marina with a park that allows public access. Mr. Ringhaver’s vision for the new site location provides the preservation and reverence that is so important to our community,” he went on to say.
The Military Museum of North Florida in Green Cove Springs offered to use the memorial as part of its artifact display. But because the private museum is outside of St. Johns County, relocation would have been significantly more expensive. All costs related to this option would have been paid by the city.
The Ladies’s Memorial Association of St. Augustine offered to buy a plot of land to relocate the memorial, but nothing came of the offer after the city followed up.
The city also got an offer from a private landowner in western St. Johns County, but they would have allowed people to see the monument by paid appointment only.
If the City Commission doesn’t make a decision by August 10, the plan is for the memorial to be stored at the city’s public works compound.
The Confederate War Memorial was commissioned by the Ladies’ Memorial Association and was erected in 1872. Originally located on the east side of St. George Street, the 30-feet high obelisk was moved to the Plaza de la Constitucion in 1879, according to the University of North Florida.
Archaeologists have finished a preliminary investigation and believe the memorial is stable enough to be moved. Once the memorial is removed from its current site, archaeologists will conduct further investigations underground and in the surrounding area.
The relocation of the memorial is expected to be finished within three to four weeks.