Development plans for Little Talbot Island began to materialize in 1943 when the state highways department purchased the beachfront island on the north side of the St. Johns River.

A Times-Union article featured Mrs. Linwood Jeffreys of Jacksonville, a state park board member who described plans for a park there. It was so remote that it depended on when — and if — the state could build a road across the island, a beachfront highway to connect Jacksonville and Fernandina.

In 1990, a group of Mandarin Scout Troop 473 walked the trail in Little Talbot National Park, as part of the National March for Parks program.

If that happened, then Little Talbot would have to be developed “with the emphasis on the beach”, Jeffreys said, with the newspaper noting “she made it clear that the natural beauty of the woods and the beach would be preserved”.

The story went on to say that “unsightly shacks devoted to the sale of soft drinks and sandwiches would not be permitted” and that the beach – unlike those in so many parts of Florida – “will not be available or usable at speedway purposes”.

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The idea was to create a family beach in unspoiled nature – a “new mecca for tourists”, as the newspaper put it in a 1946 article. And that’s pretty much how this crown jewel on Duval County Beaches (really, any other town would be jealous of that) turned out, some 76 years later.

The road, now part of Florida A1A, was built and Little Talbot Island State Park opened as a separate state park in September 1951 with a recreation area for whites on the north end and another for blacks a few miles south.

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This 1977 photo shows the old fishing pier at Little Talbot State Park, abandoned after being damaged by Atlantic Ocean storms.  The ocean is constantly reshaping the largely unspoiled island even today, and the old pier is long gone.

In a 2013 interview, Park Superintendent Bob Joseph, now retired, reflected on his 25 years at the park, which has grown to encompass both Big and Little Talbot, the south end of Amelia Island and other properties just inland.

Several times during a conversation, he referred to himself as a land manager and not a ranger. And he spoke of the “noble cause” of saving places for future generations.

In this 1999 photo, Sea World Orlando employees and ranger Chad Lach return a loggerhead sea turtle to the sea in Little Talbot.  He was found on the beach by Anne Corum (far right in red) and cared for.

“As these lands become little green islands as Florida grows, they will be more treasured as gems,” he said.

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