Jacksonville drivers get the same view of the St. Johns River, and it’s tempting to take it for granted.
But flip that viewpoint and everything changes.
Take a kayak ride down Hogans Creek and then the majestic St. Johns River awaits. More than sights change, as well. Sounds are different. You can see and hear the birds. Life seems to slow down.
A similar effect can be discovered by taking a river taxi tour. The river is the backdrop for some events.
There are sunset cruises with live music.
There are eco tours, school field trips and extended hours for all concerts at Daily’s Place.
There recently was reggae night.
There’s a Jacksonville zoo cruise every Saturday that includes zoo admission.
And there’s a Museum of Science and History River Tour every Saturday that includes expert narration.
All of these cruises require reservations.
The crew includes people who love the river and are passionate about Jacksonville. They often bring special expertise such as current and former military, naturalists, teachers, naturalists and marine science specialists.
As for the regular tax service, there are hopes to add a stop in Riverside soon. The dock at A. Philip Randolph just opened so there are plans to work with Intuition Ale Works, SMG at the Arena and the Baseball Grounds to promote water access.
It’s about time that Jacksonville capitalized on the river in the classic way — as a means of transportation.
Kayak access is being added throughout Jacksonville, not only Downtown but the Beaches communities are getting into the act with new services for disabled people at Dutton Island in Atlantic Beach.
That news was shared at the recent meeting of the Waterways Activation group organized by City Council Member Lori Boyer.
The sheer scope of the activities in the works is impressive but then the scope of Jacksonville’s waterways is impressive as well.
Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park, that rare large recreational facility abutting the ocean, recently opened a new playground with a nature theme, a custom-built tree house and a zip line that is always busy.
East Coast Greenway
There are plans to add a Downtown loop to the East Coast Greenway, the 3,000 mile project from Key West to Maine. The route has been adjusted to include the Tree Hill preserve, Norman Studios and the arboretum.
And let’s remember that without the Mayport ferry the Greenway would be stopped in Jacksonville. Great work by city leaders like Elaine Brown, John Criscimbeni and Janet Adkins kept the ferry operating. And Jacksonville need to keep reminding state leaders that this city used local funds (tolls and sales tax revenues) to build state roads. It’s only fair that the state help to link a A1A at Mayport.
Jacksonville Beach pier
City Councilman Bill Gulliford has been keeping an eye on renovations of the Jacksonville Beach pier, damaged by Hurricane Matthew. RS&H is performing a study of the pier that lost about 300 feet of its 1,300 feet to the storm. As part of the renovations, Gulliford wants to redo the entrance, which he likened to the state prison at Raiford.
Mayport: There are plans to return a working waterfront to Mayport, which was in effect as recently as a decade ago.
Thumbs Down for poor promotion of Jacksonville’s assets in the past. Offshore scuba diving opportunities have always been present here, but too many enthusiasts think they have to travel to South Florida to follow their hobby.
And the easy promotional opportunities were illustrated by Putnam County’s Bartram Trail promotion, conducted for just $15,000 with a state grant. Boyer suggested that Clay and Duval counties could easily join the promotion.
SECURITY AT HEMMING PARK
Thumbs up to the Central Security Agency, the St. Augustine-based firm that’s providing private security at Hemming Park. The company was hired last year by the Friends of Hemming Park, and it is drawing raves for its work in helping improve the Downtown park’s atmosphere.
“They’ve really done an excellent job,” says Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Zone 1 Chief Jackson Short.
Short adds that Central Security Agency, which has six officers patrolling Hemming Park, has been particularly effective at enforcing park rules and quickly settling minor issues while still respecting the rights of individuals to be in a public place.
“We have worked well with them,” Short says.
A REBOOT FOR ARTWALK
Thumbs up to Downtown Vision Inc.’s ongoing efforts to reboot ArtWalk, the popular event held Downtown on the first Wednesday evening of each month. Downtown Vision is actively studying ways to put the “Art” back into ArtWalk: It wants to add more elements to feature the work of local artists during the event, while keeping the music and food attractions that draw many visitors every First Wednesday.
Some of the ideas being considered include recruiting more Downtown businesses to host art exhibits inside their buildings — and providing grants to some artists to make it easier for them to participate in ArtWalk.
“We’re looking to get ArtWalk back to its roots,” says Teresa Durand-Stuebben, chairwoman of Downtown Vision’s board of directors.