Downtown Dwellers to log volunteer hours in “partnership” with city

View of the leaking Sailor Statue on the Southbank Riverwalk which has been fixed by the city.

View of the leaking Sailor Statue on the Southbank Riverwalk which has been fixed by the city.

The Downtown Dwellers, a group seeking to be the “voice” of the residents living Downtown, has decided to cement its partnership with the Jacksonville Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department by asking its members to log the “volunteer” hours they spend monitoring the Southbank Riverwalk outside of their homes.

In a meeting April 28, in the ninth-floor lounge of The Peninsula Condominiums, the Dwellers met with Daryl Joseph, director of Parks and Recreation, and Jill Enz, City park development and natural resources manager, to discuss issues related to the Riverwalk, a City park.

The Dwellers is headed by Sandra Fradd and Susan Strauss, who live in The Peninsula, and Tom Dumas and John Smith, who live in The Plaza. In addition to The Plaza and Peninsula, the meeting included residents from The Strand and San Marco Place as well as two local businesses – Art Casey, general manager of The Lexington Hotel and Nannette Sutton, owner of the Southbank’s oldest building, located at the corner of Kings Street and Prudential Boulevard.

The Dwellers’ group came into existence in November 2015 when a group of concerned Downtown citizens met with City personnel to “inform those responsible for the Southbank Riverwalk of construction problems.” Since then, the group has tried to work closely with Parks and Recreation personnel to resolve problems affecting the Riverwalk.

“At every single meeting since its inception, Daryl Joseph has been a part of it, and we’ve always worked as friends,” said Fradd. “It’s awfully easy to find fault, and there are many faults and we are good at finding them. But it is much more important that we find our commonality and work together to resolve these issues.”

Willing to work with the residents, Joseph and Enz have agreed to meet with the Dwellers once a month so they can update the group of progress the City has made to address Riverwalk-related issues. To keep up its end of the bargain, the Dwellers will distribute to Downtown residential locations sign-up sheets for volunteers to log the hours they spend monitoring the Riverwalk. Fradd said she will compile the data from the sheets and report back monthly to the Parks Department.

“Walking the Riverwalk with the intention of looking at it to see if something needs to be fixed would qualify as a volunteer hour. Now if you pick up trash, that counts especially. But it doesn’t demand that you pick up trash, it is simply walking with the intention to ensure that our Riverwalk is up to par and at the level that we would want it to be,” Fradd explained.

Residents interested in helping can forward their volunteer hours to [email protected]

During the meeting, Joseph said the leaking Sailor Fountain on the Southbank has been fixed and problems with the fountain’s lighting, which seems to require maintenance, is still a concern. “Water and electricity don’t always work well together,” Joseph said. “We were thinking of installing some lights that are elevated and actually shine down on the fountain so we don’t have the ongoing maintenance and issues.”

The original commemorative plaque for the Sailor fountain has been located and the City is working on a mounting location and frame structure, reported Fradd. Also, the pavers near the fountain, which were stained while it was leaking, need to be removed and this project is expected to be tackled by the City this summer, Joseph said.

In May, the City began working on the gaps and shifting of the pavers by adding polymeric sand, a project that will occur in five stages. “We want to start down at the School Board Building and work our way back,” said Joseph. Pavers that were replaced with the wrong color for the Riverwalk will be replaced with those of the correct color this summer.

Fradd said the Dwellers were excited the City had cleaned out detritus left from the homeless in a garden area adjacent to their Southbank building, and that by June 30, 2017 rip-rap is to be installed near the restroom building to prevent homeless from roosting there.

Another goal that’s been realized is the installation of “No Fishing” signs along the Riverwalk so that the law can now be enforced by the Jacksonville Sheriffs Department. “With the No Fishing signs, it’s enforceable now. If you see someone fishing you can call the police. And JSO is now stationed at The Landing, so they are close by,” said Fradd.

This summer, the City plans to reinstall missing and broken sail shades on the Riverwalk, which were damaged by Hurricane Matthew. “They are specialty shades. I actually ordered extra, but somebody vandalized them so we are down by two,” Joseph explained.

During the meeting, Joseph said he was grateful to the Dwellers and their willingness to work with the City. “Thank you for the partnership. I truly believe communication is the key,” he said.

“There may be things we are working on that you guys could care less about, but there are others you think need to be prioritized – I get the emails on that. We have a task force now, we can track what’s going on, and we are developing a document so we can say this is our game plan and give you the estimated dates,” Joseph said. “A lot of times we say we are going to do X, Y, Z, but there is no follow-up. Some things are out of my control, and I will tell you that, but there are certain things in my control that I can handle and you guys can tell me if that is not happening.”     

Fradd agreed. “Our goal is to make this Riverwalk an amenity that we all are proud of,” she said.

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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