Neighborhood News

Residents scrutinize Fishweir Creek plans at first public meeting

Residents scrutinize Fishweir Creek plans at first public meeting

By Steve DiMattia
Resident Community News

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hosted its first community meeting about the proposed Big Fishweir Creek Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Project last month — an event which drew more than 80 residents of the Fishweir Creek area. The crowd assembled at Fishweir Elementary School in Avondale to learn more about the extensive environmental project and its local impact.
The project’s goal is to restore a healthy aquatic habitat in the Big Fishweir Creek ecosystem. USACE wants to dredge the creek, reusing 32,000 cubic yards of sediment for the restoration and recreation of a 2.3-acre manmade marsh island that defined the area decades ago. Dredging also will create two converging channels and deepen the creek.
Officials estimate the project’s cost to be $3.5 million with 65 percent coming from federal funds and 35 percent from the city.
“It all comes down to the cost-per-habitat-unit,” said Christyn Wiederhold, project engineer. “We want to have the best habitat that we can to put us in the running for funding to create the project.”
Corps representatives presented a PowerPoint detailing the highlights of their plan and then fielded questions during the three-hour meeting.
Most questions from the audience were about the island.
“I don’t have a problem with the dredging,” said Sally Lee, who lives near the mouth of the creek. “But can’t we use the sediment to build up other areas rather than make a $1 million island?”
Others asked if the sediment could be used to restore bulkheads around the creek. “Based on sediment analysis, the sediment is not suitable in composition for this purpose,” said Amanda Ellison, the corps’ public affairs specialist, responding to follow-up questions via email with input from project experts.
At the meeting, corps’ experts reiterated the justification of the island found in their report: “re-establish lost marsh area, provide wildlife habitat, reduce turbidity, provide littoral shelf forage for the endangered manatee and reduce restoration costs by providing on-site disposal for dredge materials.”
In a phone interview following the meeting, resident Larry Lee voiced concern that the island would block his city view. He was particularly worried about it becoming a “garbage dump” for trash and weeds.
“Who’s gong to maintain it and keep it from smelling, attracting bugs and being an eyesore?” he asked.
Ellison responded: “The island will increase velocities within the creek and around the island, therefore decreasing trash within the water body. The majority of the island will be below the water table with approximately one foot of the island visible at low tide. The city will maintain the island.”
Resident Karen Watson had similar island-related concerns going into the meeting, but left satisfied, for now, with the answers she received.
“I just want to make sure they’re considering all alternatives,” Watson said. “But I’d rather have an island than muck. I want the river to be healthy; I’m thinking longer-term than just today.”
Robert Woodard, owner of B & W Marine Construction, felt that the island was a good alternative, but shared a different concern.
“I don’t think 32,000 cubic yards of dredging is going to make a dent and using a portable cutter-suction dredge is gong to take forever,” Woodard said.
During the meeting, project manager Jim Suggs underscored the project is still in its early stages, and encouraged such feedback. It was also noted that the next phase is engineering design, so concerns about the location of the island and channels within the creek and the effect on existing properties will be addressed before the project moves forward. While some mentioned the existence of artesian wells, they are not expected to change the scope of the project.
Watson said it is about due diligence. “The most important thing for us is that we keep their feet to the fire so that they know we are concerned. It could be disastrous if they don’t do it right.”
The next meeting will be announced when a date is set. The following link shares the presentation and posters from the meeting: www.saj.usace.army.mil/
Divisions/Planning/Branches/Environmental/DocsNotices_OnLine_DuvalCo.

FDOT ready to install new crosswalk at ‘the point’

FDOT ready  to install new crosswalk at ‘the point’

By Susanna P. Barton
Resident Community News

The Florida Department of Transportation will install a new, much anticipated pedestrian crosswalk this month at “the point”—the dodgy southern intersection of old San Jose Boulevard and Hendricks Avenue at Southside United Methodist Church.
FDOT officials said they will be issuing a work order to upgrade the pedestrian crosswalk signing and pavement markings. They anticipated the work to be complete within nine weeks of mid-March.
Spokesman Mike Goldman shared an overhead view of the crossing with more specifics of the crossing upgrade. Some of the most visual elements of the plan will be the new fluorescent yellow pedestrian crossing signs with downward pointing arrows. The first pair of signs will be placed where cars begin to veer off Hendricks Avenue to the right onto San Jose Boulevard. Another pair of signs will flank the newly striped crossing. Additionally, two more bright yellow signs will indicate it is “the state law to stop” when pedestrians are in the crosswalk.
The crossing will be hard to miss. That’s just what representatives from San Marco Preservation Society (SMPS) were hoping for when they approached FDOT about the idea late last year. Valerie Feinberg, an SMPS leader and local mother who has been involved in the neighborhood’s Safe Routes to School initiatives, helped lead the charge. Her son’s bike was struck by car in the crosswalk last year. While unhurt, her son and his experience helped bring the danger home.
District 5 City Councilwoman Lori Boyer said there is some discussion about installing a similar crossing at the south end of old San Jose Boulevard where the road feeds into State Road 13 (or San Jose Boulevard). Like the northern crossing, the southern crossing—near Watson Martial Arts—also is difficult for pedestrians and bicyclists to pass.

Community mourns Regan, loss of innocence

Community mourns Regan, loss of innocence

This
time last year, the community gathered at Episcopal High School to
celebrate a project near and dear to the heart of Head of School Dale
Regan — the dedication of Parks and Lastinger halls. In a sad turn of
events, the community will again convene between the two buildings to
memorialize Regan, who lost her life on March 6.

The memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on March 9 in Campion Courtyard, a pristine setting between the two halls.

Regan, who has worked at Episcopal since 1978 and served as its
Head of School for the past six years, was killed in her office this
week by former Spanish teacher Shane Schumerth. Schumerth had been
terminated earlier in the day for “failing to meet the expectations of
the school.” A statement from Episcopal said Schumerth was repeatedly
counseled for “issues associated with attendance and a lack of
timeliness in complying with the requirements of the position.” After
being fired, Schumerth returned to the school with an AK-47 hidden in a
guitar case and shot Regan multiple times in her office before killing
himself.

No students or faculty were hurt, although the school was on
lockdown for more than an hour before students were able to leave. The
school has been closed since Tuesday and is expected to reopen at the
end of spring break on March 19.

The event has been described as one of the worst tragedies in recent history to affect the community on such a level.

Regan leaves a rich legacy in the field of education and in the
community. This summer, she was named an EVE Award for Education winner
by The Florida Times-Union. She came to Episcopal as a teacher from
Sandalwood High School in 1978 and moved into the Head of School
position after many years of teaching English.

Through social media sources and other local outlets, many in the
community have expressed their love and appreciation for Regan —
recalling her smile, the way she remembered all students and for the way
she modeled professionalism, good citizenship, faith and integrity.
According to her obituary, she attended neighborhood schools Landon
Middle School and Wolfson High School before attending Florida State
University and the University of North Florida, where she received her
master’s degree. She is survived by two sons, John and Duke, as well as a
sister, Denise Hunt and her parents, Allen and Charlotte Duke.

The family requests donations be made to the Dale D. Regan Memorial Fund at the Episcopal School of Jacksonville.

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