FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. — When asking residents of Fernandina Beach who Ron Sapp is, you’ll hear answers like “an icon” and “an important local celebrity.”
Sapp served as mayor of Fernandina Beach for six years, city commissioner for 24, columnist for a local newspaper for about 18 years and was a teacher at Fernandina Beach High School for 28 years.
During his time of public service, Sapp was a large reason why Egan’s Creek Greenway Trail was created. The greenway is a protected and undeveloped area of more than 300 acres that’s open for walking, bicycling, viewing wildlife and vegetation and more. But, the park there almost didn’t exist.
“It actually passed by 52 to 48,” said Fernandina Beach Mayor Bradley Bean on securing a municipal bond of $6 million in order to buy the land for the greenway. “It was so razor thin as to how this bond would pass, but today, we are so thankful that Mayor Sapp had the foresight to put that on the ballot.”
Local attorney Robert Peters also remembers when the idea of preserving greenspace was proposed to the city and how Sapp led that charge.
“He was the rare public servant that had a vision and he was playing chess while everybody else was playing checkers,” said Peters. “He was always thinking ahead and he knew this place was going to get developed, and he said, ‘We’ve got to set aside land and as quickly as we can.'”
The greenway was officially named the ‘Ron Sapp Egan’s Creek Greenway’ earlier this year and there was a celebration on Tuesday in his honor. At the celebration ceremony, community members also honored Sapp for his hand in restoring the Peck Center, the creation of 40 public beach accesses and establishing a three-story height limit at the beach.
“When they come up to you and shake your hand and say thank you for the greenway, thank you for the beach accesses, thank you for the boardwalk, thank you for these things, it’s not just heartwarming, it’s just thrilling,” Sapp told First Coast News.
But still, even with his accomplishments, teaching is what Sapp is most proud of. Sapp taught over 7,000 students during his 28-year tenure and started the AP program at Fernandina Beach High School.
“It is the best and the greatest job in the world,” said Sapp. “If you can just allow people the opportunity to think, then there’s nothing [that] can go wrong.”
And right from the seats inside of Sapp’s former classroom, Bean acknowledges the impact Sapp has made firsthand.
“He taught me government and I’m the mayor now so, I credit him in part with that achievement,” Bean told First Coast News.
Through preserving greenspace, to teaching generations and so much more, stories told by those close to him, say Sapp left an imprint on his community.
If you’d like to visit the Ron Sapp Egan’s Creek Greenway, the entrance is behind the Atlantic Recreation Center on Atlantic Avenue in Fernandina Beach. You can learn more here.
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