Park Street ‘pool’ prevented with new drains

Park Street ‘pool’ prevented with new drains
Some driveway entrances are being replaced as part of a drain replacement project on Park Street between Edgewood and Talbot Avenues.

Residents on a one-block stretch of Park Street are relieved that a longtime, serious drainage problem has been finally corrected. For years, downpours have created puddles large enough to slow traffic to a crawl.

The problem began about six to eight years ago after the City of Jacksonville resurfaced Park Street, according to Susan Fraser, a Park Street homeowner.

“They only milled and resurfaced it without any major rebuild. They added asphalt over the existing lime rock and actually made it much worse by placing asphalt over the driveway turnouts,” she said. “That effectively blocked all the drainage from reaching the inlets at Edgewood and Talbot. I had standing water in front of my house for years, 24/7.”

Six months ago, the Jacksonville Energy Authority tested standing water for chlorine, which would indicate a leaking pipe, said Fraser.

A worker measures a length of curbing on Park Street as part of a drain replacement project.

A worker measures a length of curbing on Park Street as part of a drain replacement project.

There were no pipe leaks, and the issue came to head when a pothole “about a foot deep and as large as a table” opened up in front of her house. “As soon as I reported it, the Drainage Department saw the issue and this became an emergency rebuild project,” Fraser said.

For two weeks in June, sidewalks, curbs, storm drains and some driveway entrances were replaced between Edgewood and Talbot Avenues as part of an $80,000 public works project on that portion of Park Street. The work was contracted to United Service Connection to resolve the drainage issue, according to Tia Ford, City of Jacksonville spokesperson.

However, while giving the City two thumbs up for responsiveness, Fraser gave the City lower marks for planning.

“We have no trash service and no one can tell you what to do; they have no review of the impact to the trees, and they clearly have not set up a detour route that is appropriate for the buses and trucks that use Park Street,” said Fraser.

Residents don’t feel Talbot Street is wide enough to accommodate large vehicles, such as buses and moving vans, especially when they are passing each other.

In front of Charlie and Jeanne Ward’s home, next door to Fraser, is an ancient live oak, most likely planted in the 1920s when that block of Park Street between Talbot and Edgewood was developed.

Fraser and the Wards have lived in their Park Street homes for 28 years and have watched the curb get closer and closer to the nearly 100-year-old oak. After the tree was struck by a vehicle some years ago, reflectors were affixed to its base. Ward even has a personal arborist who comes out every couple of years to check on the condition of the tree, said Fraser.

The initial plan for the tree during the curb work, as described to Fraser by a City Inspector, was to cut 18 inches down into the root system and lay the new curb. When she asked about an alternative to cutting into the old oak tree, she said his response was “of course, they could just cut all the trees down.”

“I have been a landscape architect for 30 years and I knew that the approach described would kill the tree,” said Fraser. She left a message with Steve Long, chief of the Right of Way and Stormwater Maintenance Division. “I then called Councilman [Jim] Love, who responded to Mr. Long with an email identifying the concern.”

According to Fraser, the inspector also referenced a report by the City arborist stating their approach of “cutting the tree drastically was fine,” but Fraser said she knew the City has not had an arborist for more than a year, so she questioned the existence of the report.

“Ultimately the City raised the curb about six inches at the tree in order to improve the drainage and had to cut into the tree less,” she said. “Whether it makes a difference or if the tree is damaged anyway, only time will tell.”

The moral of the story, said Fraser, is don’t be afraid to question any work being done on your street or in your neighborhood.

Following completion of the drainage project, within one to three months a milling and resurfacing project will occur on Park Street between Edgewood Avenue and Dancy Street. The contractor will be Preferred Materials, Inc. and the project is estimated to cost approximately $130,000.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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