Amelia Island Trail History

Island residents and visitors have dreamed about a multi-use trail on Amelia Island for decades, envisioning a paved traffic-free trail along scenic A1A which can be safely used by walkers, runners and cyclists. Visions of the trail were turned into action by the Amelia Island Trail Team, which focuses on building sidewalks and trails.

In 2005, a group called The Amelia Island Association, which focused on the broader issues of quality of life on the island, decided to focus on what it do to improve the parks.

In an effort to provide assistance to the island's parks, Phil Scanlan, the founding force behind the Amelia Island Trail and head of the Friends of Amelia Island Trail organization, hosted a meeting with the purpose of bringing together the leadership of the various stakeholders - county parks and recreation, city and state officials, Talbot Island representatives and others.

"When I asked them what we could do to help the parks, to a person, they said not to give them anything new because they already had more than they could take care of due to budgetary constraints," Scanlan remembers. "But they all agreed that a trail connecting the various parks would be a good idea, and it would not be something that they had to find funding to construct or care for."

Scanlan and the members of the Friends group envisioned a trail that not only linked parks on the island, but also connected to the East Coast Greenway trail, which is planned to stretch from Maine to Key West.

The first step on the road to that goal was securing funding, Scanlan said. "No one had ever applied for trail grants here, and there is a group in Jacksonville called the Transportation Planning Organization - that is a required group around different regions by the federal government to get regional people together to give out federal transportation money, of which, 1 percent goes to trails," Scanlan said.

Cooperation and involvement between the various organizations and government entities helped secure between $1.5 and $2 million in funding for the creation of the Amelia Island Trail, Scanlan said. There were no matching funds required, but the Friends organization was required to accept responsibility for maintenance of the trail- an approximately $10,000 per year expense.

By working with representatives from various city, county and state offices, including the North Florida Transportation Planning Office, $2.3 million in federal transportation enhancement funds were dedicated to this project.

The funding was approved in 2006. Work began on the $2.3 million project on Oct. 15, 2012, says Mike Pikula, president of Friends of the Amelia Island Trail, a nonprofit group formed to add trailside amenities and help maintain the trail. "J. B Coxwell Contracting Company is moving out with the work," said Mike. "Despite a bit of a late start, now that the gas pipeline work is complete, trail construction is accelerating. Much of the drainage infrastructure is in place, about 1/3 of the trail has received either one or two layers of asphalt (of a total of three layers), and the right of way for the most northerly sections is being cleared and prepared for paving. In addition, The Nassau County Board of County Commissioners approved the construction of our first “gap” trail. The “gap that will be closed is the route from the Amelia Island Trail eastward alongside Julia Street to the sidewalk along the Amelia Island Parkway, and onward to the American Beach Community Center. With continued mild weather, there is a very good chance our Amelia Island Trail and this “gap” trail will be completed in March, 2013." Adding the 0.2 miles to the 6.2 mile long AIT, and the mile long bridges off the south end of the island results in over 7 miles of trails.

The trail crossing near Old Bluff Road was begun on 3/11/13 which included a slight widening of A1A, construction of a protected mid-street concrete curbing, pavement painting and installation of a push-to-cross flashing light. That same week parts of the AIT received some "un-official" pedestrian traffic on Sunday, as Concours d' Elegance patrons walked from their cars to the event venue near the Ritz Carlton. Construction in that area was on hold Saturday and Sunday just for the Concours.

On May 11, 2013, Friends of the Amelia Island Trail held an "Opening Celebration" at the northern trailhead inside Peters Point county park that included a ribbon-cutting and recognition for public officials who worked with citizens to make the AIT a reality.

In October 2013, the Amelia Island Trail was formally designated as part of the East Coast Greenway (ECG). When completed, the ECG will include 3,000 “trail-miles” from Northern Maine to Key West, Florida. The ECG, which traverses 15 states, is one of 16 trails in the National Millennium Trail System. The AIT is one of the first parts of the ECG established in Florida.

In April, 2014, the FOAIT and local volunteers built the trail kiosk at the north trailhead at Peters Point park.

In May, 2014, the FOAIT and local volunteers built a bicycle rack at the south trailhead at the north end of the George Crady Bridge Fishing Pier State Park.

In the spring of 2015 the FOAIT partnered with Boys Scouts of America Troop 89 and installed five benches along the trail.

Volunteers performed two trail usage surveys, one in 2014, and the second in 2016. Both revealed that the trail is enthusiastically supported by many users. While our purpose was to take raw user counts, many users approached the volunteers during the counts and enthusiastically expressed how much the trail meant to them and how important it was to them. The counts were performed by a number of volunteers who were all trail users. Since then, many local groups, such as Newcomers Club or the North Florida Bicycle Club, sponsor regular organized bicycle rides along the AIT. A new bicycle shop opened in The Shops at Amelia Market, later moving to a location on the AIT across the street from Palmetto Walk Shopping Village.

Amelia River to Sea Trail History

The Amelia River-to-Sea Trail is our second major trail, following the very successful Amelia Island Trail which opened in 2013. Work on this project started in early 2013, beginning with face-to-face coordination with representatives of the nearby homeowner associations. Numerous endorsements followed including the Chamber of Commerce, the YMCA, etc. As the proposed route would cross City and County boundaries, both City and County governments were involved.

After more groundwork, meetings and coordination, Nassau County staff led by Mr. Taco Pope put together and submitted a formal application in record time for the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization on April 11, 2013. The North Florida TPO holds the purse strings for federal transportation money apportioned to Duval, St Johns, Clay and Nassau Counties. Our application was competitively selected, and funding was programmed for a design. It didn’t hurt that another Nassau County notable, Commissioner Danny Leeper, was our representative on the TPO at the time. Federal funding through the TPO in the amount of $1,720,000 was soon assured, a design contract was awarded, plans were drawn, consultants hired, then construction followed.

In December 2015, Nassau County received a grant for design and construction. The design was planned for FY2016 with construction in FY2017/18. In March 2016, The design contract was awarded by FDOT to Element Engineering.

On November 16, 2016, the design reached the approximate 30% completion point. According to Jonathan Page, Nassau County's project engineer at the time, once contractors complete certain milestones he will convene a public forum to allow interested persons to review and comment on the design. This "30% Design Review" will allow the public and his office an opportunity to provide feedback and insure the contractor is on the right track.

On March 2, 2017, Staff from the County, City and the Project Consultant, Element Engineering Group held an open house for public input. After further changes in the design, the county held another open house (at the American Beach Community Center) on July 12, 2017 for the 90 percent Design Review. Design changes considered from the two open houses included drainage issues at Isle de Mai, revised pond-side benches due to construction of the Lakeside retirement center, road crossings and crosswalks, and the location of the trail between First Avenue and South Fletcher.

By October, 2017, the timeline called for a final design by the end of the year with bids going out early 2018 so that construction could take place the next spring/summer and be completed by fall of 2018.

Groundbreaking took place in November, 2018. The contractor, Florida Infrastructure, Inc., worked in a general west to east direction starting along Bailey Road and then turning east along the unpaved Simmons Road ROW south of the Isle de Mai subdivision. Construction was expected to take approximately 300 days with an estimated completion date of August 30, 2019.

During this time, the Crane Island Development constructed approximately one mile of trail from the Athletic Complex west to Crane Island. This occurred because the planning for Crane Island Development occurred at about the same time at for the Simmons Road trail. Crane Island development, after talking with Simmons Road Trail planners, agreed to extend the trail farther westward to his development and the Amelia River. The Development incorporated the trail into the Crane Island plan that would give the general public access to a park on the river, including construction of a public pier on the river.

Approximately 6/10 mile of this is an 8-foot wide paved asphalt trail, and about 4/10 of a mile is a 5-foot wide paved walkway that turns into crushed rock surface terminating at Crane Island park to be built on the north end of Crane Island at the Amelia River. As of October, 2019, the trail on Crane Island and the park are still under construction. When complete nest year, the Development will grant public access to this trail segment and park. Combined, this makes the overall ARTS Trail length approximately 2.9 miles.

The Grand Opening of the Amelia River-to-Sea Trail took place on Monday, September 23, 2019 at the Bailey Road Trailhead. Nassau County Commissioners, City Commissioners and approximately 50 local supporters attended to hear remarks from Commissioner Justin Taylor, Chairman of the Nassau County Board of County Commissioners. Additional speakers included Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper, Aaron Bell District two Commissioner, Mike Pikula, President of Friends of the Amelia Island Trail, Inc., and Mr. Jack Healan, Developer of Crane Island. Now that construction on much of the trail is complete, Friends of the Amelia Island Trail will be installing trailside amenities, including benches, bike racks and bicycle service stations. Many thanks to our generous donors who will make these enhancements possible!

How many people does it take to build the ARTS multi-use trail? Well, let’s start counting:

  1. Trail Logo Design…Susan Henderson, and Amelia Island Graphics.
  2. FDOT’s Urban Office in Jacksonville.
  3. Construction Contractors Florida Infrastructure, and Engineering Consultants from Element Engineering, with Robert Companion, now Chief of Nassau County’s Engineering Department, serving as overall project manager.
  4. Crane Island Developers and trail partners Jack Healan Sr., Jack Healan, Jr., and John Hillman.
  5. Nassau County Officials…Commissioners Aaron Bell, Pat Edwards, Thomas Ford, Justin Taylor and especially Danny Leeper who has been a leader in road and trail development in NE Florida through his work with the NFTPO. The man of many hats, County Manager and Attorney, Mr. Mike Mullin. Taco Pope who put all the details together and led it thru the complex TPO process. Let’s not forget a few who are no longer here: Scott Herring, Peter King, Jonathan Page, Ted Selby, and David Hallman. Others include Adrienne Burke, Kailey Porter, the Nassau County Sign Shop, and the Road and Bridge Dept.
  6. On the City of Fernandina Beach side: Commissioners Johnny Miller, Len Kreger, Phil Chapman, Mike Lednovich, and Chip Ross, and their predecessor Commissioners; staff members Kelly Gibson, Lorelei Jacobs, Nan Voit and Rex Lester.
  7. Support from the local running, walking and cycling clubs on Amelia Island.
  8. Mr. Bill Moore who is an essential element of this whole quality of life business on Amelia Island.
  9. Thanks also goes to the Community Leaders and residents in 7 subdivisions adjacent to the trail: Egans Bluff, Egans Bluff II, Isle De Mai, Persimmon Cove, Landyns Lake, Ocean Reach, and Egans Landing.
  10. Many others not named here for their public support and recommended improvements.



Amelia Island Trail Construction (Fall 2012 - Spring, 2013)
Peters Point AIT Kiosk Construction (April, 2014)
South Trail Head Bike Rack Construction (May, 2014)


News Archive

5/13/2015 Amelia Island Trail (AIT) Team Meeting Minutes

News Articles, links to cycling and other related web sites.

Hit Amelia Island Trail for after-meal Action (FBNL 11/27/15) article includes history of Amelia Island Trail.

Nassau County 20 years of bicycle infrastructure improvement

New group bicycle ride on Amelia Island Trail (Fernandina Observer 1/28/15) article on bicycle ride on Amelia Island Trail.

The Bicycle Friendly Award (5/13/2013 press release)

'St. Johns River Ferry Crucial for Cyclists (FBA Messenger Spring 2013)

FDOT Leader has Passon for Bike/Ped Safety (FBA Messenger Spring 2013)

AIT to be Open Soon (FB News Leader 3/20/2013)

Amelia Island Up-And-Coming Spot (Money Magazine March 2013)

Work Continuing on AIT, (Florida Times Union 2/12/13)

AIT is Under Way (Florida Times Union 2/3/2013)

Bicycling On Amelia Island (Jan/Feb, 2013)


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