City to address erosion in two parks along Ortega River

A deep sinkhole appeared in Baker Point Park in late summer 2016. In early January, the City of Jacksonville erected a safety fence around the hole at the new bulkhead in Baker Point Park.

A deep sinkhole appeared in Baker Point Park in late summer 2016. In early January, the City of Jacksonville erected a safety fence around the hole at the new bulkhead in Baker Point Park.

When Ronald Easter makes his morning clean-up walk through two parks on San Juan Avenue in the Lakeside area, he does more than pick up trash left behind by the previous day’s park visitors. Easter, and his wife Carol, also scan for potential safety hazards in the two city-owned and maintained parks.

The Easters, who have lived across San Juan Avenue near both parks since the late 1960s, patrol the parks with plastic buckets and litter-pickers each morning because they want to be good citizens.

In late summer 2016, Ron Easter noticed several areas of concern, including erosion of the bulkhead in Stinson Park and a very deep hole in Baker Point Park at the juncture of the new seawall and the concrete retaining wall, which runs parallel to the street.

“Ron and I e-mailed the city, then I contacted the city by phone about the erosion on the Baker Point side,” said Carol. “They did nothing. Then the police were parked there one day, and I showed them the hole. They were shocked nothing had been done so they put yellow tape around it so people would be aware of it.” 

Carol said she received one response from the city “quite a while ago, stating they were aware of the problem and would be addressing it, but of course they have not.”

The only precautionary measure to warn inquisitive children away from the sinkhole were a couple of red safety cones, which the patrol officers had set up. “We kind of just gave up,” said Carol. “We just kept telling people about it when they were at the park.”

Over in Stinson Park, Ron Easter pointed out a hole he continually covers with a rock to prevent unsuspecting visitors from stepping into it and potentially breaking a leg. “Every time Parks and Rec came out to mow, they would toss the rock away,” said Easter. “I would just go find another one to cover it.”

Erosion along the seawall in Stinson Park on San Juan Avenue. In early January, the City of Jacksonville erected a safety fence along the Stinson Park seawall where erosion has occurred.

Erosion along the seawall in Stinson Park on San Juan Avenue. In early January, the City of Jacksonville erected a safety fence along the Stinson Park seawall where erosion has occurred.

The Lakeside couple have been patrolling both parks since 2011 and have also cleaned up fishing lines and other harmful debris from the base of the Ortega River Bridge to keep the parks clean for the children in the neighborhood. Since they began their community clean-up efforts six years ago, they have noticed a bit less trash, but the recent erosion gave them new cause for concern.

“That hole is very dangerous and if a child falls in it, the city is in for a big lawsuit,” said Carol Easter.

After touring the parks with the Easters shortly before Christmas, on January 4 The Resident reached out to city employees in Parks, Recreation and Community Services, Public Works and the office of District 14 Councilman Jim Love. New barriers were installed around the erosion sites the same day.

“These issues were, if not caused by, worsened by Hurricane Matthew,” said City of Jacksonville Public Information Officer Tia Ford. “Parks will be performing repairs to both, filling the eroded areas using various stone sizes covered with topsoil and sod. Both are expected to be completed within the next 30 days. In the meantime, they have installed more secure barriers at both locations.”

In response to the inquiry, Love’s office stated Parks and Public Works have been hampered by budget constraints and urged residents to get involved with the City of Jacksonville’s budget process.

“Show up to Council committee and full Council meetings that are of relevant concern and contact your district and at-large Council members to provide your input,” said Kevin Kuzel, executive assistant for Councilman Love. “Additionally, I tell as many constituents as possible to contact all the Council Members, because they will all vote on the budget, and on every legislative issue that comes before the Council. The budget will be composed, presented, debated, and then presented to the Council for approval in just a few months.”

Less than two years ago, the City of Jacksonville spent $758,545 to replace 4.4 miles of seawall maintained by the city, including the bulkhead along the Ortega River at Baker Point Park. The new bulkhead was completed in June 2015.


By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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