Exciting new activity park waits for Overland Bridge project completion

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

The groundwork is being laid now for a park that may not welcome its first visitor until 2016 or later.

The proposed site for an activity park is currently being used as a lay-down area for construction of the Overland Bridge project, which is not schedule for completion until 2016.
“But, no better time than the present to plan!” said Melody Bishop, architect with Akel, Logan, Shafer, and member of the Downtown Investment Authority.

Previous discussions for use of that land began in 2002 with the riverfront property owners between Nemours and the Acosta and resulted in the general agreement that the existing waterfront esplanades could one day be connected to the Southbank Riverwalk. Those in attendance concurred, according to Bishop.

“The park area serves as a vital link between the Southbank and the Riverwalk, both as an inland link to provide access, and to provide linkage for vision to provide a loop that follows the Southbank Riverwalk from Nemours to the JEA site, inland to the Kings Street Skyway and then west back to Children’s Way and the Riverwalk,” she said.

Previously, there had been discussions to include parking to be used for visitors to this activity area of the Riverwalk. However, it was decided during the July 1 meeting that there would be no parking designed for this area between Palm and the St. Johns River.

Down the road it’s likely that some of the parking designated for Baptist Health could be made available for Riverwalk visitors. Crosswalks on Palm will be generous and well-defined to provide the needed connectivity to the parking.

Bishop said “The layout of the site is brewing, but it will include – of course – a river’s edge esplanade, set back with a more natural edge with rip-rap to encourage plant and marine life, similar in nature to much of the Northbank Riverwalk west and south of the Acosta Bridge. A couple of paths will meander across and around activity areas.”
Those involved in the initial planning feel that being located next to such important health institutions makes the site ideally suited to fill a void for a focus on healthy, active living. The needs of key age groups with varying needs, ranging from young children to late teens and adults, will be addressed.

“The park must be a very exciting space, playing off of the lighting of the bridges leads to dramatically lighting up the bridge’s ‘underbelly’ even, to some degree, energized by various exercise equipment…the more you ride, play, run, etc. the more or brighter it glows or dances!” envisioned Bishop.

District 5 Councilwoman Lori Boyer has suggested that in keeping with the focus on health, and the site’s proximity to Nemours, Wolfson Children’s Hospital and Ronald McDonald House, it was a great opportunity to introduce sensory, barrier-free exercise and play equipment to Jacksonville.

The ad hoc group is developing sketches to take to the City because an agreement between the City and Florida DOT would have to be reached for the maintenance of the site prior to its being turned over. FDOT recently entered into a similar agreement with the City for the Riverside Dog Park.

Andrew Dickson, Parks Chair for the San Marco Preservation Society, said “We welcome a new park, a new waterfront as part of San Marco by Design.”

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