Community gives back to neighborhood parks

Other than libraries, there’s probably nothing about which more passion is sparked and more discussion created than public parks. Whether it’s turning a “passive” greenspace into a specialty park – such as a dog park, a community garden, or a destination playground – or simply attempting to maintain access to or through a park, residents are critical to health and welfare of favorite local “getaways.”

With hundreds of parks in Duval County – and over 30 in the Riverside, Avondale, Murray Hill and Ortega areas – it’s a huge task for the City of Jacksonville to keep them safe, clean and inviting for nearby residents. Thanks to private-public partnerships, several parks now have “friends” groups to share the burden with the City’s Parks and Recreation employees.

Northern half of Boone Park to get own ‘friends’ group

Boone Park, a 28-acre park bisected by Herschel Street, has two distinct “personalities” and will soon have a second “friends” group established to promote and care for the north portion. Jen Taylor is spearheading the effort to create a nonprofit similar to Friends of Boone Park South.

Friends of Boone Park North are focused on safety and cleanliness for the moment, but there are also repairs to be made.

“The main concern with the playground right now is getting the fence fixed from Hurricane Irma damage,” said Taylor. “We have some lights still in need of repair from the hurricane, several trees that had to be removed, and a need for more garbage cans and more frequent trash pick-up.”

Boone Park North, which sports tennis courts, picnic shelters with tables, bleachers, restrooms and playground equipment, was last renovated about 20 years ago when Doris Keith led a committee to oversee the renovations that were substantially funded by then District 14 Councilman Jim Overton.

“Ultimately, it would be nice to update the playgroup equipment,” said Taylor.

A Facebook page ( has been set up to create awareness of the new group and provide information on schedule cleanups.

Please don’t feed the ducks…the wrong food

For many years the health of the duck pond at Riverside Park languished due to inoperable aerators, surface algae – that brown/green scum you see, trash and dead waterfowl.

While it’s too easy to blame a lack of city funds to maintain the second oldest park in Jacksonville, part of the problem can be directly attributed to its visitors.

There’s nothing better than taking your young family to the local park to enjoy the playground or watch the waterfowl. Unfortunately, the age-old tradition of tossing pieces of bread or crackers to ducks and geese is a huge taboo.

Why? Bread makes fowl ill, does not contain the nutrients or calories needed to keep them warm in the winter and, when not eaten, rotting bread creates surface algae, which kills the fish that ducks and geese eat, and spreads diseases among the fowl.

If you and your child must feed the birds, consider cut, seedless grapes, cooked rice, birdseed, peas, corn, oats and chopped lettuce.

In the meantime, Riverside resident Cathleen Murphy is trying to start a 501(c)(3) to support Riverside Park through a public-private partnership with the City of Jacksonville’s Parks and Recreation Department.

“It’s exciting to think about making Riverside Park, our city’s second oldest park, a destination and neighborhood gem that everyone can enjoy,” said Murphy. “I’m hoping to schedule another meeting with the Parks Department and Councilman [Jim] Love’s office in the coming months to continue investigating options for adding a filtration system to the duck pond and other park improvements. The new aerators and fountains that were installed last year are definitely an improvement, but they’re not the solution to ongoing issues with the pond.”

Two years later, Murray Hill children may get new playground

The small playground planned for Four Corners Park in Murray Hill is finally – after nearly two years of discussion – moving forward.

The small playground planned for Four Corners Park in Murray Hill is finally – after nearly two years of discussion – moving forward.

Residents met with Keith Meyerl, Parks, Recreation and Community Services chief of recreation programming, in May 2016, at which time they indicated a preference for a small playground in a design that would fit in with the heavily wooded nature of the park.

Although funds were released in spring 2017, with expectations to see the equipment installed during the summer, concerns from nearby residents slowed the project down. Hopes were still high the playground would be finished by the end of 2017.

In January, the Parks and Recreation Department finally settled concerns about a misconception the playground would be as large as the one installed in Boone Park in October 2016 and that parked vehicles would overrun the community. The Four Corners playground will be approximately one-fifth the size of what has become a “destination” park and playground in Avondale.

The latest update from Daryl Joseph, director of Parks and Recreation, was the playground should be installed by late spring/early summer. It takes at least eight weeks to receive the equipment from Kompan, the manufacturer, once the order is placed.

The playground equipment will be located in the northeast corner of Four Corners Park,  north of Lawnview Street and east of Lamboll Avenue. The $60,000 cost will be provided from District 14 bond funds.

John Gorrie Dog Park looking for some ‘TLC’

Back in mid-July 2017, a small group of dog (and park) lovers gathered at The John Gorrie Dog Park at Riverside Park to share ideas about maintaining the city-owned space. One of the outcomes of the gathering was to initiate monthly cleanups, to occur the second Saturday of each month.

Currently, leadership at Riverside Avondale Preservation and park volunteer Brooks Andrews are working with Jill Enz and Alice Jones of the Parks and Recreation Department to resolve ongoing maintenance issues and the inability to keep grass in the large dog area.

During the fall, visitors to the park reported an infestation of ants. There were also issues reported late in December about holes in the fencing allowing small dogs to get into the large dog area, and larger holes that provide an escape route onto the street.

Additionally, at some point the Florida Department of Transportation will take over a portion of the large dog area for staging equipment during construction of the Fuller Warren Bridge expansion.

A dog park cleanup is planned for Saturday, April 14 at 9 a.m.

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