Troubled waters – Artificial reefs coming to San Marco riverfront

Residents concerned about impact on ‘San Marco Beach’ fishing, already problematic

By Susanna P. Barton
Resident Community News

Two artificial reefs are expected to be installed in the St. Johns River as a way to promote better fishing in the area. But not everyone’s hooked on the idea.
At least two residents who live in homes bordering Riverfront Park, or “San Marco Beach,” said the reefs could exacerbate a longstanding problem with some shore fishermen’s persistent bad behavior in the city park. The residents said they have spent more than two decades combating “filthy” and sometimes illegal activities by fishing enthusiasts — including public urination, trash, fowl language, illegal drinking and drug use and other unsavory activities. The artificial reefs, they said, could bring more of the same issues and don’t help correct issues that have been ongoing for years.
“The effects of the fishing has been tumultuous, to say the least,” said one property owner near San Marco Beach at River Road and Landon Avenue. “You can’t take your family out there without hearing the language, or safely. It’s disgusting. These reefs would bring more people there.”
According to a report from Boyer’s office, the artificial reefs have been “under consideration for some time.” The first reef is planned 483 feet off the Riverfront Park shore. A second reef would be located in the river about 1,384 feet off Greenscape Celebration Park at the end of LaSalle Street. The city of Jacksonville, through its Housing and Neighborhoods department, applied for the permits to construction the artificial reefs. The application said the reefs expected usage were for boats and shore-based fishing. The reefs would help “4-6 boats utilize the site at any one time” and “enhance shore-based angling at Riverfront Park located in the San Marco area of Jacksonville.”
District 5 City Councilwoman Lori Boyer said word of the two artificial reefs’ installation was new to her in recent months.
“I just found out about this — I was recently appointed to the Waterways Commission and at a meeting they were talking about the reefs for San Marco. I said, ‘where?’” Boyer said. “When I got the information I was very concerned because there has been a lot of concern already about fishing from our riverfront parks and the lack of public bathrooms and the behavior of some of the fishermen has not been what it should be.”
Boyer said she planned to coordinate with city parks director Kelly Boree to see what to do about the situation at this point.
“This is a case of the right hand doing one thing and the left hand doing another and no one’s communicating,” Boyer said.
During a recent community meeting, Boyer shared as much information as she had with area residents and listened to their concerns.
An artificial reef contractor in the audience said the reef construction might actually deter shore-based fisherman because the fish could migrate closer to new habitat in the reef
Other residents raised suggestions for alternative reef sites including the old JEA power plant site on the Southbank.

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