‘Not rain…tears of joy’ for dog park groundbreaking

‘Not rain…tears of joy’ for dog park groundbreaking
Carmen Godwin, Trey Csar, Delores Barr Weaver

Officials from Riverside Avondale Preservation, the City of Jacksonville and key donors gathered in a light rain under the canopy of I-95 to formally kick off construction of the John Gorrie Dog Park at Riverside Park, a new off-leash dog park in 5 Points.

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Lifting dirt symbolically for the John Gorrie Dog Park at Riverside Park groundbreaking were Delores Barr Weaver, Trey Csar, Jim Love, Sunny Gettinger, Mattox Hair and Carmen Godwin.

Speaking at the Jan. 22 groundbreaking were RAP Executive Director Carmen Godwin, Dog Park Committee Chairman Trey Csar, City Councilman Jim Love, and philanthropist Delores Barr Weaver, who gave a $50,000 match donation on behalf of the John Gorrie Investment Group.

In her remarks, Weaver said she and her husband, Wayne, initially came to Jacksonville 22 years ago because it was the home of the Jaguars, but stayed here because they love the city. The Weavers, former owners of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, settled in Riverside.

“We love the people of Jacksonville, so whatever we can do to help, have done, will do, or hope to do, is all because of you right here,” said Weaver. “It is not raining now. This is tears of joy from all our four-legged friends who are ‘up there.’”

The John Gorrie Dog Park – funded by more than $150,000 in private funds, including a $30,000 gift from the Elizabeth Brown Foundation, and $150,000 from the City – culminates a nearly three-year effort by community supporters.

“Today is a symbol of a whole lot of dedication and hard work by a whole lot of people for several years,” said Godwin. “If you look at this space, it has been an unused, unsafe, unsightly storage space for FDOT for years and now it will be incorporated into Riverside Park to become a place that makes our neighborhood really vibrant and amazing.”

The dog park will be located on the northeast corner of Riverside Park, and re-uses land formerly designated as a construction equipment storage yard for the Florida Department of Transportation.

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Former Florida State Senator Mattox Hair, one of three administrators for the Elizabeth Brown Foundation, with Desi, an 11-year-old Corgi.

“One of the things that makes me really proud to be a resident here is when the community comes together,” said Csar, who moved to Riverside six years ago with his family. “This is a great example of what happens when community works. This is a labor of love.”

When complete, the 1.5-acre park will consist of separate areas for large-breed and small-breed dogs, featuring decomposed granite ground cover, significant old-growth tree coverage, water fountains and bench seating. The project, by Hager Construction Co
mpany, is expected to take one to two months, leading to a park opening in March, hopefully on a sunny Saturday, said Csar.

“There are so many dog lovers here who are waiting for this amenity,” said Godwin. “Dog parks are a great place for dogs to get exercise and socialization they need to be healthy. It’s a great place for people to socialize too.”

Godwin also stated, as part of the negotiations, FDOT will remove the retention ponds all the way to the Riverside Arts Market, and that space will become public space. “You will be able to walk, bike, run from downtown to the dog park here,” she said. “That will be amazing for our neighborhood and for the city as a whole.”

By Kate A. Hallock,
Resident Community News
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