The New Green: Sustainable renovations and urban agriculture news

The New Green: Sustainable renovations and urban agriculture news

By Steve DiMattia
Resident Community News

One sign of the neighborhoods’ “New Green” awareness is the proliferation of community gardens.
Some have sprouted nearly unnoticed in small neighborhood plots and serve a few friends. Others are more official and the benefits have grown beyond just those who till the soil. And many are designed with community support in mind.
“There are a lot of examples in the area of community gardens that are grown under the umbrella of organizations that use them to give back in some way,” said Carol Kartsonis, founder of Friends of North East Florida Community Gardens, a gardeners’ network. “It would be great to duplicate them all over the city.”
Kartsonis formally served as the administrator of Gardens at Jackson Square, located along Phillips Highway in San Marco. The five-acre garden, begun in 2009 by developer Steve Cissel, houses within it the 19-plot Sulzbacher Community Garden for the Sulzbacher Center homeless shelter.
“The garden was designed to teach residents from the shelter about nutrition and to provide a good source of fresh produce for the Sulzbacher kitchen,” said Megan Riggs, the garden’s coordinator. Five to ten residents normally join her weekly to tend and harvest the garden. “It’s also a great reliever of stress and helps the residents clear their minds.”
Across the river at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Allan Darby has joined with the hospital’s outreach ministries food pantry to provide fresh produce from the “Life Garden” he began in a 100-yard-by-10-yard plot near the emergency room.
“The vegetables are a nice compliment to the dried and canned foods,” said Darby, the hospital’s Food & Nutrition Operations Manager. The garden supplied 150 pounds of produce to the pantry last year.
“The garden also provides a little community pride,” said Darby. “Once somebody starts the spark, other people come out of the woodwork to help. So, our garden not only feeds people, but also brings people together. ”
Building community was what Pam Kleinsasser at Nemour’s Children’s Clinic had in mind when she sent out an email proposing a garden to that hospital’s associates in 2009. Over 50 people responded and together they built a 1,300 square foot garden along the river on hospital grounds.
“It has brought people together over good food who wouldn’t had otherwise met,” said Kleinsasser, a medical photographer and avid gardener.
For Amy Thomas, the hospital’s speech, language and hearing-impaired specialist, it has done much more than that.
Thomas has developed an entire curriculum around the garden for her 10 young clients who may have anything from speech impediments or memory impairment to food aversions.
“I looked at what they needed – speech or language goals, sequencing, vocabulary – and then worked backwards to the garden,” said Thomas, whose students range in ages from 4 to 14. “But the whole child is growing from this; not just my little goals. It’s good for their social and emotional development. They light up when we go out to the garden. That’s when I see them at their best.”

Your comments and suggestions for future columns are encouraged. Contact Steve DiMattia at
[email protected].

Episcopal teacher’s wartime experience subject of Cummer exhibit

Episcopal teacher’s wartime experience subject  of Cummer exhibit

Episcopal School of Jacksonville teacher, Richard Chamberlain served the United States during the Vietnam War. His experiences there inspired an eerie, but powerful artwork that is now on display at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens in Riverside.
Called Richard Chamberlain: The Year of the Sheep, the exhibition will be on display in the museum’s Mr. and Mrs. Samuel A. Milner Gallery through July 8. Chamberlain’s exhibit is featured in conjunction with Jacksonville’s Cultural Fusion initiative and its theme, “The Things They Carried,” based on the collection of stories by Tim O’Brien about a platoon of soldiers during the Vietnam War.
The Year of the Sheep marks the year on the Chinese calendar that Chamberlain spent in Vietnam as a demolitions expert “blowing things up.” Three themes are represented: the Hill Series, where Chamberlain’s struggle with black and white, both figuratively and literally began; the Tree Line Series where perspective and nature’s role in the War are explored; and the Cave Series where the catharsis is most palpable. In total, 22 works are represented, from snapshot size to window
“Where I started with the Hill Series, I truly was just putting brush to paper (the first works were on brown kraft paper chosen for its neutrality and temporariness) and my guttural black-and-white/good-and-evil naivety is starkly obvious,” Chamberlain explained. “From there the lines started to blur in the paintings just as my experiences during the War muddied my understanding of good and evil and right and wrong.”
Richard Chamberlain was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder some 20 years after his tour in Vietnam in 1967. At the time, bouts of depression and isolation were hindering his growing success as a painter of still life with exhibitions in New York City galleries. Finding it hard to articulate his feelings, Chamberlain took the advice of his therapist to express feelings of anxiety and alienation through his art. So began the Year of the Sheep series.

Sister Cities conference puts city on world map

Sister Cities International Annual 2012 Conference to be held July 11-14

By Steve DiMattia
Resident Community News

In 1967 the U.S. State Department contacted Jacksonville mayor Hans Tanzler and made a suggestion that would set the city on a path toward international cooperation and peacekeeping for years to come.
“The State Department suggested that we sister with Bahia Blanca, Argentina,” said Doug Coleman, executive vice president of Jacksonville Sister Cities Association. “We had a lot in common, both being port cities and with our Spanish influences, among other things. They felt that it would be helpful to international relations for us to have a formal
Jacksonville has since established seven more sister city partnerships with cities as diverse as Murmansk, Russia and Yingkou, China. The First Coast also has three friendship cities in China.
“Jacksonville has an active, award-winning program devoted to world peace through understanding other cultures and people,” Coleman said. “We have a constant flow of visitors, exchange students, executives and elected officials traveling to and from each of our sister cities. We also offer a number of local cultural and social events throughout the year.”
That includes the 450th Anniversary Celebration of the discovery of the St. Johns River by Jean Ribault on May 1, which will be attended by more than 100 French visitors.
This long and successful history has brought Jacksonville the honor of hosting the Sister Cities International Annual 2012 Conference, July 11-14, at the Hyatt Regency. Roughly 500 people from around the world are expected to attend, including delegations from Jacksonville’s Russian, Korean and French sister cities as well as its three Chinese friendship cities.
“Jacksonville was a natural choice to be the host for our 56th Annual Conference. It has a rich tradition of sister city relationships and volunteerism; therefore leading by example. Also, I’m sure the attendees will not be able to resist the sun and sand that the city has to offer!” said Mary D. Kane, Sister Cities International President and CEO.
Coleman, an Avondale resident and host committee chair, notes a local benefit for the city.
“Aside from the cultural and educational exchange that will take place, it will also bring some economical impact to have 500 people in the city.”
The U.S. sister city program originated in 1956 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower proposed a people-to-people, citizen diplomacy initiative. The program’s mission is to “promote peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation — one individual, one community at a time.”
Sister Cities is a formal relationship between two communities consummated by the signature of the mayors of both cities and recognized by SCI. A friendship city is less formal and more limited in scope. All local board members and officers are volunteers.
That includes the conference’s “volunteer, volunteer coordinator,” Lourdes Iglesias.
“My goal is to make visitors’ experience as seamless and effortless as possible,” said Iglesias, a San Marco resident.
Toward that end, she is seeking volunteers to help greet and host participants, operate an airport welcome desk, organize city tours, do limited office work and assist with receptions. While knowing a foreign language or having some knowledge of other cultures is helpful, it is not required.
“We’re looking for people who will represent Jacksonville’s positive energy, hospitality and enthusiasm,” Iglesias said.
The same spirit that was in place 45 years ago when Mayor Tanzler accepted that fateful call from the State Department.

Pine Forest parents start foundation to raise school funds

Pine Forest parents start foundation to raise school funds

Parents from Pine Forest School of the Arts, one of the city’s only arts magnet schools, have established a 501(c) 3 foundation to help bridge funding gaps at neighborhood elementary school located just off Emerson Street in San Marco.

Tennis courts closed, local playgrounds on the mend

Broken equipment and facilities at several local parks have the city in repair mode.
One of the most expensive to fix will be significant cracks in two asphalt tennis courts

Property re-zonings heat up San Marco development

By Susanna P. Barton
Resident Community News

Several key rezoning applications hit the Jacksonville City Council in late April — including two projects that could help invigorate the northern stretch of Hendricks Avenue.
District 5 City Councilman Lori Boyer introduced ordinance 2012-272 for a PUD rezoning application at San Marco Station during a late April council meeting. A public hearing before the city’s Land Use and Zoning Committee was expected May 1.
The property, under development and owned by local resident Ed Ash, is known as the San Marco Train Station — and in neighborhood circles as the future home Panera Bread. The San Marco Train Station plans call for a 14,000-square-foot retail center, an outparcel and a 1,200-square-foot hexagonal building, as well as space for 80 parking places.
The recently filed rezoning involves modifying the site plan to accommodate a new entrance to the property from Hendricks Avenue, “to permit construction of additional square footage in two new buildings near Hendricks (one being designed for Panera’s), to add additional land and parking on Naldo and to make other changes in permitted uses, landscaping and design,” read a summary from Boyer’s office. Developers seek to preserve the 100-year-old South Jacksonville Utility Building on the property. After meeting with Ash, representatives of San Marco Preservation — which maintains an office adjacent to the site at the South Jacksonville City Hall building — voted to support the application.
There’s no word yet on timing for construction, although site work is already underway on the property.
Additional rezoning legislation came to the city council last month from the developers of 1461 Hendricks, site of the proposed Aardwolf Brewing taproom and brewery. Currently, the property — the old Moyer tile building on Hendricks Avenue between the railroad tracks and Cedar Street — is zoned Industrial Light or IL. Aardwolf Brewing is being planned by Preben Olsen and associate Michael Payne, former brewer at Brewer’s Pizza in Orange Park. The brewery would be a tenant in the building, according to Erik Olsen, principal engineer with Olsen Associates Inc. Erik Olsen is assisting Preben, his son, through the development process. The building’s 2,000-square-foot showroom on Hendricks would be available for lease by another entity through building owner, San Marco Station LLC.
The PUD application has been filed and a public hearing before the LUZ committee is expected June 5.
Olsen said they are designing two major facility components at this time including the tap room and a warehouse brew area. He does not expect to make any changes to the building’s historic Hendricks Avenue facade with the exception of new signage.
Olsen said the group is ordering brew equipment “which must be fabricated,” he said.
“With the explosion of craft brewery construction nationally there no longer the opportunity to acquire used equipment which normally can be a major time saver,” Olsen said.
While time is of the essence, Olsen said the goal is to get the tap room operational by football season. Aardwolf partners are eager to be part of the emerging craft beer scene in Jacksonville and have gotten great community feedback for the project.
“The amount of positive response that Michael Payne and Preben Olsen have received from San Marco specifically and the beer community of Jacksonville in general has been gratifying to say the least,” Olsen said.
In other neighborhood rezoning news, a PUD to PUD rezoning application has been filed at Old San Jose on the River. According to a summary from Boyer’s office, the request “reduces overall density and would allow development of single-family lots in areas previously identified as multifamily and parking.”

Delays for San Marco Streetscape?

Completion date a work in progress

Will construction delays force the San Marco Boulevard
roadwork to finish perilously close to the 2012 holiday shopping
season? It depends on who you ask.

Gettin’ Jiggy with It – learning tips and tricks

Gettin’ Jiggy with It – learning tips and tricks

The Mudville Grille was the place to be if you’re a lure angler in the waterways of Northeast Florida. Captains

Spring break not only time to enjoy outdoor activities with the family

Spring break not only time to enjoy outdoor activities with the family

By Ted and Nathan Miller

Last month was spring break. With the kids out of school for a week and their sports activities put on hold, it was the perfect time to tell them to pack a bag and take off to a favorite destination for a much needed break.
Our great state of Florida offers many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. From fishing to hunting and camping to canoeing, it is virtually impossible to get bored around here. There are activities and destinations for everyone — and many spots are just a few hours away. Let’s take a quick tour from the northeast to the south and back up the west coast.
Amelia Island is a about a 2.5-hour boat run from Jacksonville. Free dockage at the city dock allows you and the family to jump off the boat for the one minute walk to the historic district of Fernandina Beach. Kids will enjoy window-shopping and catching a scoop or two of ice cream at one of the several parlors in the city center. There are many great places to grab lunch as well.

From Fernandina Beach, you can run south down the east coast of Florida to our nation’s oldest city — St. Augustine. At this historic waterfront stop, you can enjoy an inexpensive stay at one of several marina resorts. With a late afternoon walk along the docks, you will witness boats unloading the day’s catch and watch the sun set behind the tuna towers.
Next, we head further south through Crescent Beach, Matanzas Inlet, and Ponce Inlet and into Cape Canaveral. The fishing in this region can be the best in the Southeast. This time of year offers an incredible bull-red run off the coast where the sea turns red with thousands of redfish or you can chase packs of free-swimming cobia heading north for their annual migration.
Looking for a longer trip? Travel further south to Stuart, Vero and Palm Beach. These areas offer a wide range of lodging from 4-star resorts to quaint little fish camps and marina resorts with private dockage. With more than 100 inshore spoil islands in the ICW and the gulf stream being only minutes away from the inlet, this part of Florida offers some of the most accessible inshore and offshore fishing around.

Then there’s Miami and the Keys. With its gin-colored water and local restaurants and marinas, the area boasts some of the freshest fish tacos and cold beverages you can find. When you are through exploring the Gold Coast, travel up the west coast past the Everglades, 10,000 Islands, Naples and Ft. Myers. This gorgeous part of the state offers some of the most beautiful inshore angling in the world. Be sure to use the tracking devise on your GPS: with every canal and mangrove island (over 10,000 of them) looking the same, it can be difficult to find your way out of there.

Heading up the west coast, you will find one of the greatest cheeseburgers the state has to offer. Travel a little further north up the Cultural Coast past Sanibel and Captiva to Cabbage Key at mile marker 60 along the ICW. The dock masters are friendly and will work hard to squeeze your boat into a slip (and they do accept tips). After lunch, head northward to Boca Pass and spend a few hours watching the mayhem and the cluster of agitated anglers tarpon fishing jockeying for position over “The Hole”. This is an area in the pass where the depth goes from 35 down to 74 feet, holding hundreds of fish.

Next — it’s Boca Grande, an area a few miles north of the hole. There, you can leave your boat at the city dock and take a walk into Boca Grande for some ice cream. Golf carts are available for rent as well. Boca Grande is full of great places to eat. A little further north is Gasparilla Island. You can only access the island by boat and truly has one of the most beautiful inlets around.

Traveling further north we enter into the scallop capital of the world in Steinhatchee (STEEN-hat-chee) and Keaton Beach. This family activity has been referred to as ‘easter egg hunting for grown-ups’. I tend to agree. A few recommendations: Pay someone to clean your scallops. Eat dinner at Fiddler’s Restaurant. Buy a koozie at the Sea Hag Marina. Heading further north and west along the panhandle you reach Apalachicola, Port St. Joe, Panama City, Destin and Pensacola. These areas offers some of the whitest beaches, one of the best cobia fishing migrations and some of the best bottom fishing in close proximity to the inlets around. You can fill a fish box full of snapper and grouper (when it’s open) only a few miles offshore. And if you search hard enough, you may be able to find a local restaurant to prepare your catch for you.
Happy exploring.