Safety measures coming to Palmer Terrace park

Safety measures coming to Palmer Terrace park
The gate on Palmer Terrace park is slated to get an automatic locking system so that the pocket park can be closed between dusk and dawn.

It’s no secret that mischief makers and other unsavory characters often frequent the pocket park on Palmer Terrace. To rectify the situation, board members of St. Nicholas Area Preservation (SNAP) met with city officials in June to see what safety measures could be done to allow residents to better enjoy the tiny waterfront parcel at the end of Palmer Terrace.

In a recent SNAP newsletter, members were informed that auto burglaries had increased in the neighborhood by 23%, so residents were cautioned to remove their valuables and lock vehicles near their homes. This statistic came by way of SNAP Board Member Walter Bryant, who attends Citizen Planning Advisory Committee meetings (CPAC) on behalf of the society.

“It’s kind of a misnomer,” said SNAP President Jay Harrington, speaking of the frightful statistic. “Kids are out of school now, and they have nowhere to be, so they open a few car doors. It’s cyclical.”

Palmer Terrace Park, a city spillway that serves as a small piece of riverside greenspace for residents to enjoy for picnicking, fishing or watching the sun set, has been fraught with vandalism, drug use and other offensive conduct by park visitors outside of the neighborhood over the years. Most recently, SNAP officials contacted officers from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to assist a fisherman who backed his truck through the park’s narrow gate only to get it stuck in the mud down near the river’s bulkhead, said Harrington.

Harrington and Bubba Miller, vice president of SNAP, contacted Keith Meyerl, with City of Jacksonville Parks, Recreation and Community Services, to talk about how the residents and city can work together to better maintain the park and improve its safety.

“He was very responsive to our concerns, and it is our understanding that we can expect some big developments,” said Harrington. 

Meyerl promised by July 21 the City would do a deep clean-up of the park, trim the weeds to make it less “covered,” and install a larger, more visible sign at the entrance emphasizing that the park hours are from dawn to dusk, Harrington said.

Once the new fiscal year begins in September, the City plans to budget for an autolocking gate so that the park can be shut down after dusk, Harrington said. “It might take a little time because they need to send RFPs (Request for Proposals) out to get power to the gate,” said Miller. “He said it will be in next year’s park budget. That’s when we can expect a more concrete update.”

“Kids want to smoke pot somewhere and hopefully the sign, the gate and the light will help us curb that,” said Harrington.

“We’re doing what we can. We’re a new administration. We haven’t been here long, but we are very happy with the response we got from the City,” he continued. “They seemed very responsive to our concerns.”

Harrington also requested that residents who might know the code to the existing gate at Palmer Terrace Park call a SNAP board member. “I encourage any of your readers to come forward if they know the code to the gate at Palmer Terrace Park,” he said. “It’s ancient knowledge that has been lost, but there is a keypad on the pedestrian gate, and we would like to know what the code is.” 

The City is impressed with the care St. Nicholas residents give to Palmer Terrace Park, said Miller. “The neighbors are showing an appreciation for the park, and Keith literally thanked us as a neighborhood for showing an interest,” he said, noting that setting up a “Friends of the Park” organization is another opportunity for the City and the neighborhood to work together to beautify the park.

“They regard it as a spillway, but at the end of the day, they understand that for us in St. Nicholas, it’s a really good opportunity for people to walk down and enjoy the river with their families,” said Miller. “We’re just trying to figure out how we can beautify it, to make it into a neighborhood park that people can enjoy while it still serves the municipality for drainage.” 

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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