Activating our Waterfront
The St. Johns River is at the heart of Downtown’s infrastructure. Access to the river is enjoyed by locals and visitors alike with ample space to jog, bike or simply stroll along the riverwalks and take in the scenic views. The Main Street Bridge, Acosta Bridge, Hart and Fuller Warren Bridges connect the North- and Southbank of Downtown with three other bridges providing connectivity throughout Jacksonville.
Community leaders, guided by SWA, a renowned planning firm, have recently completed a plan for a series of connected park nodes along both the North- and Southbank Riverwalks, creating a cohesive palette of materials, signage, lighting and landscaping that tie together the unique and distinctive park spaces. The riverfront “nodes” will each celebrate a unique facet of Jacksonville’s identity. The parks – some small and some large, some passive, some active – punctuate the linear Riverwalk strands creating a sense of anticipation and exploration as one travels from one themed pocket garden or landscape interpretive node to the next. The first two node redevelopments are funded and in various stages of design. This will be done through cohesive signage and wayfinding, lighting, landscape, and sound. These aesthetic enhancements will help reveal and celebrate the story of Jacksonville and enrich the existing functional structures.
Built around the theme Exploring the St. Johns River, plans for the Southbank’s iconic St. Johns River Park and Friendship Fountain call for a botanical garden, a themed play park, a splash pad, concessions and fountain upgrades. The node will tell the story of the indigenous Timucuan people, Ribault’s landing in 1562 and the Ft. Caroline settlement, and botanist and horticulturist John Bartram’s travels through Jacksonville. Central to the park will be an upgraded fountain representative of the massive flow of the St. Johns and including fully functional dancing jets choreographed to music and lights.
Built around the theme Jacksonville’s Musical Heritage, plans for the riverfront at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts call for a musical heritage garden highlighting musicians and composers with Jacksonville ties, a children’s music play space, and a new outdoor wall projection venue with livestream performances and movie projections.
JTA recently completed a project that re-illuminates the Acosta Bridge, years after the original lighting failed, with new color-changing LED lights outlining its profile. These enhancements, combined with the electric blue Main Street Bridge, and new lighting at both parks, will be synchronized to create one large nightly multimedia show Downtown.
Reclaiming Waterways for the Community
Meanwhile, remediation and restoration is planned for two major creeks that branch off the St. Johns River from Downtown to open these waterways up as amenities for the community. Both creeks will require environmental cleanup as well as flood mitigation improvements. In addition, improvements to the Hogan’s Creek Greenway trail will increase connectivity to the Sports and Entertainment District and out to neighboring trails and communities. The McCoys Creek Greenway will connect Hollybook Park, Brooklyn and Riverside to Northbank Riverwalk and will include a new pedestrian bridge, kayak launch sites, and park improvements.
Accessing the St. Johns River
The DIA is committed to increasing river access not only through extending and enhancing the riverwalk but also through dock access at regular intervals along both shores for water taxis and recreational boat use.
The City’s Parks Department has been investing in new infrastructure, including new boat ramps, kayak launches, and boat docks. In addition, the St. Johns River Taxi provides convenient crossings to four Downtown docks Tuesdays through Sundays, event-based routes, sunset cruises and MOSH Science and History tours.
- Jackson Street Floating Dock (Brooklyn) – Water Taxi Landing & Recreational Boater Access
- A. Philip Randolph Dock – Taxi Landing
- Hogan Street Dock – Repair & Replace Hurricane Damaged Docks to provide both Water Taxi Landing & Recreational Boater Access
- Berkman Dock – Create Water Taxi Stop at Existing Marina
- Metro Park Dock Repairs – Provide Water Taxi & Recreational Boater Access
- Riverside Arts Market (RAM) Dock – Water Taxi & Recreational Boater Access
- Post Street – Water Taxi & Recreational Boater Access
- School Board Building – Provide a Non-Motorized Kayak Launch
- Riverplace Tower – Water Taxi Landing & Recreational Boater Access
- St. Johns River Park – Dock Extension, Water Taxi Landing & Recreational Boater Access
- St. Johns Marina Ramp
- Fuller Warren Floating Dock – Water Taxi Landing & Recreational Boater Access
- The District – Water Taxi Landing & Recreational Boater Access
The DIA and City are continuously assessing City bulkheads and shoreline protection Downtown and are committed to the timely reconstruction of deteriorated segments as well as creation of more resilient solutions. Work includes an initial assessment and project prioritization based on currently known information regarding age and condition of the bulkheads; physical inspection and recommending corrective actions and the design and construction of the needed improvements.
Riprap and Natural Shoreline Enhancements
In addition to restoring existing bulkheads, The City and DIA are incorporating alternative measures — which help provide a more durable, natural solution for shoreline protection, such as riprap. The riprap method is proving to be more effective at preventing shoreline erosion adjacent to the Riverwalk than bulkheads. Furthermore, the natural environment is allowed to flourish when using the riprap method — rock, stone, grass, shells, etc. — creating a more inviting experience for locals and visitors alike as they enjoy a stroll along the riverwalk.
Bulkhead Repairs/Replacement Locations Include:
- Northbank Bulkheads: The City’s continuous inspection of the Northbank Riverwalk indicates a need to begin phasing the entire replacement of the bulkhead. There is approximately 7,070 linear feet of bulkhead (including 1,400 linear feet at Met Park) and it is estimated that the complete replacement cost will be over $31 million. The City’s plan is to phase the replacement over time. The FY19/20 funding will be for the approximately 645 ft. of bulkhead adjacent to the Times Union Center for Performing Arts and is expected to be completed by late 2021.
- McCoy’s Creek Bank Bulkhead Restoration: The bulkheads along McCoy’s Creek are in poor and deteriorating condition and include numerous areas of exposed ash materials behind the bulkheads that come into contact with the waters of the creek. The project evaluates, repairs, and/or replaces bulkheads as needed to prevent ash material exposure to the waters of the creek. Some excavation of ash materials would be required with standard disposal protocols.