The City of Atlantic Beach paid special homage March 11, 2022, to the five people whose efforts resulted in the City acquiring -- and more importantly, preserving -- Dutton Island Preserve.
The 40-acre Dutton Island Preserve, formerly known as Pine Island, was owned by Walter “Wally” E. Dutton before he sold it to the City of Atlantic Beach to be used as a natural preserve in 1998. Prior to the sale, Dutton Island was slated for the development of single-family homes that threatened its natural beauty. The pending development prompted several organizations, administrations, and citizens to begin efforts to preserve the island.
Although the island was located within the City of Jacksonville’s jurisdiction at the time, Atlantic Beach Mayor Lyman Fletcher contacted Mr. Dutton in 1994 to discuss the possibility of the City of Atlantic Beach acquiring the island, and they formed a strong bond. Relationships matter!
For the next four years, the City of Atlantic Beach, the City of Jacksonville, the Florida Communities Trust, and numerous other dedicated organizations and citizens worked to preserve Dutton Island. This also included the Environmental Lands Selection Committee and JAXPORT. Along with Mayor Fletcher and Mr. Dutton, most prominent leaders were COJ Mayor John Delaney, Mayor Suzanne Shaughnessy, and realtor Tom Dumas. Hence the "Dutton Island Five".
The City of Atlantic Beach’s portion of the island was purchased using Florida Barge Canal funds with NO Atlantic Beach tax money being used. Although he passed away before the sale, Mr. Dutton directed that all proceeds be donated to the Shriners Childrens Hospital.
The Preserve was opened to the public in 2002. It is a true gem among the many natural jewels in our City.