Group to keep river access open gains momentum

Group to keep river access open gains momentum
Woody Moore, right, collects a signature at Riverside Arts Market for a petition to oppose closure of access to the river and to have that access be perpetually protected

Supporters of all ages join the fight

Despite another deferral of the bill that would shut down public access to the St. Johns River at Van Wert Avenue and Richmond Street, the momentum of the nonprofit Friends of Van Wert Park (FVWP) continues to pick up speed – and supporters.

Brooks Moore, left, chats with Scott and Rachel Wittosch of Murray Hill about keeping access open to the St. Johns River in Avondale.

Brooks Moore, left, chats with Scott and Rachel Wittosch of Murray Hill about keeping access open to the St. Johns River in Avondale.

While the City Council and all five standing committees – Rules; Finance; Land Use & Zoning; Transportation, Energy & Utilities, and Recreation, Community Development, Public Health & Safety – decided to defer action on the proposed ordinance (2015-360) until August, FVWP was busy adding to its number and collecting signatures.

Although the public charity was just organized in early June, by the end of July it had nearly 350 members who are committed to creating and maintaining a park at a century-old right-of-way to the river.

The group has also collected more than 700 signatures at Riverside Arts Market for a petition to oppose the closure and perpetually protect the access. Members are also making a door-to-door petition drive in Avondale.

A second clean-up was done on the 60-foot-wide by 437-foot-deep lot, opening up the front of the property so that officers of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office have more visibility down to the river. A broken street light was also repaired, brightening up the street entrance.

At a group meeting on July 7, the FWVP members agreed unanimously that:

  • The access should become a park so that it is permanently protected and will conform to City of Jacksonville park rules.
  • The park should be available for the public’s lawful enjoyment.
  • There should be no parking restrictions on Richmond Street.
  • No neighborhood or city funding should be received for a privacy fence between the access and either adjoining property.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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