Neighbors rally around river access, form nonprofit

Neighbors rally around river access, form nonprofit

Eyesore, crime being addressed

The threat of losing a century of easy access to the St. Johns River was all it took to galvanize the residents near Richmond Street and Little Van Wert.

Within a month, a nonprofit organization, Friends of Van Wert Park (FVWP), was formalized and already more than two dozen members had raised their hands to donate time before the nonprofit application went into effect June 11.

Two master gardeners have visited the river access and are working with FVWP to develop a landscape plan, according to Bryan Clontz, originator of the GoFundMe campaign that raised 140 percent of its goal within 72 hours. “We have also reached out to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to be part of their landscape crime abatement program,” Clontz said.

Clontz and others had quickly cleared out overgrown shrubs and vegetation after the initial notice of the public hearing had been posted. Now, phase two of the clean-up will involve trimming shrubs, cutting back roots and leveling the ground so it can be easily mowed from the street to the river, Clontz stated. “FVWP will announce clean-up parties on [the website] NextDoor Avondale, and we have a professional crew and funding available for the next six months of maintenance,” he said.

Beautification aside, the issue of crime is being addressed by FVWP as well.

“Members will participate in the Neighborhood Watch training later this summer,” Clontz said. “It is FVWP’s intention to turn this access into a jewel of a pocket park.”

He noted that various city departments have confirmed that once this is designated a park, city park rules of hours, alcohol, maintenance, noise and enforcement will apply. Currently, as a right of way access, none of these services are available.

“By designating the access a public park, and through the neighborhood’s engagement with FVWP, we are confident that the petitioners’ concerns of safety and maintenance will be addressed,” said Clontz, a resident on Pine Street.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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