City begins bulkhead repair in Riverfront Park

City begins bulkhead repair in Riverfront Park
A lone palm tree stands sentinel over construction work at Riverfront Park in San Marco.

San Marco residents living close to Riverfront Park are happy to see construction to rebuild the park’s concrete bulkhead is finally underway.

The park, which was always popular with fishermen, dogwalkers, and residents seeking a quiet place to watch the sunset over the St. Johns, has been off limits for nearly a year after Hurricanes Hermione and Matthew damaged the bulkhead and punched large holes within the grassy waterfront span along River Road between Landon Avenue and Laverne Street.

In October 2016 after the hurricanes, the City Parks and Recreation Department erected a six-foot-high, semi-permanent, chain-link fence along River Road spanning the park’s entire length in an effort to protect visitors and prevent further destruction to the greenway.

A worker from Farrell Bros. Marine Construction kneels on the bulkhead at Riverfront Park as concrete molds are lowered in place.

A worker from Farrell Bros. Marine Construction kneels on the bulkhead at Riverfront Park as concrete molds are lowered in place.

In May 2017, Jacksonville City Council unanimously approved Ordinance 2017-266 to appropriate approximately $1.99 million to repair the failing seawall. The ordinance amended the 2017-2021 Five Year Capital Improvement Program by decreasing funds from several accounts to move money over to the St. Johns River-Riverfront Park Bulkhead Replacement Project.

Construction was slated to begin in late August-early September 2017, but was delayed when Hurricane Irma was predicted to come calling. This ended up being a good call by the city as the Category 3 storm and preceding nor’easter were not kind to the park, lengthening and deepening its existing craters, and further damaging the crumbling bulkhead.

“It was pure devastation. We were essentially living in the river,” said San Marco resident Anita Morrill, who lives in a condominium adjacent to the property. Morrill said her family and dog were forced to evacuate through a window when more than 19 inches of river water breached the bulwark and seeped into the first floor of her home and garage.

Work began in earnest to fix the bulkhead when the flood waters receded, about a week after the savage Sept. 11 storm. The city has hired J.B. Coxwell Construction to oversee the bulkhead repairs at a cost of $1.7 million, according to the Jacksonville Public Works Department. The project, which consists of full replacement of 750 feet of the northern portion of the bulkhead is expected to take four months, said Tia Ford, city spokesman.

“I feel happy that it is finally happening,” Morrill said of the seawall repair. “It was a beautiful park and one of the only parks that runs along the water on this side of the river. If we can restore it to its original state by making it bigger, better, and safer, that would be great. It will help make this part of San Marco better than it was before.”


By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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