A Tale of Two Park Systems

May 4, 2007 5 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Springfield San Marco. Everyone in Jacksonville seems to know there is a difference in two of the most urban of Jacksonville suburbs. By all accounts, as far as gentrification goes, Springfield is a good 7 to 10 years behind San Marco.

Nowhere is this more apparent than when examining the current state of the park systems of the two burbs.  So why the disparity?  I started my quest by putting the question to the mayor.  I ran into Mayor Peyton at Colonial Manor Park (he & son Conner posed briefly for a photo - see below).  He quickly pointed me in the direction of the respective Council Members of the districts, saying that traditionally it had been difficult to get a comprehensive park system for the city because the responsibilities for improving the parks largely fell on the individual district representatives and how they prioritized the matter. 


Of course San Marco has a wonderful park system today, but it wasn't always that way.  District Councilman Art Shad says he spent about 90% of his most recent bond money (two years ago via the "autumn bond") on park improvements in his district, which includes San Marco.  He also was quick to mention that he felt the main reason the San Marco park system is so advanced now is because of the "Park Commissioners" that sit on the board of the San Marco Historic Preservation Society.  Let's have a look at some of the pictures...


Known to many in the area as the "Duck Pond", Colonial Manor Lake Park is a beautiful park with large fountains along the two lane area of San Jose as it forks off of the 4 lane State Road 13.   


While visiting the Duck Pond, I ran into Mayor Peyton with son Conner in tow.  If the Mayor lives in the area, you KNOW you are going to have a few decent parks!


A student enjoys the serenity and beauty of Colonial Manor Lake Park.


This park is close to the heart of San Marco Square and has beautiful flower gardens and a fantastic playground area.  You can view the river from the east end of the park.



Notice the clean sidewalks, tasteful fencing & flowers.



Kids at play.



This is about a three acre park adjacent to Hendricks Ave as you are coming into San Marco from the south. 



 A nice tree canopy to walk under with several inviting benches surrounding.    



Freshly cut green grass with a nice viaduct flowing through the park.  This is a stark contrast to Hogan's Creek in Springfield.



The Springfield parks are still in need of a lot of work.  But all is not lost in Springfield.  The park system today (at least in the two parks I examined there) are vastly different (as in, better) than they were just one year ago.  You may remember our stroll through Confederate Park about a year ago.  Several of us were verbally harassed by a few less than gentlemen.  

This rapid change in Springfield is due in no small part to the efforts of Dan Blanchard.  Dan has been instrumental in implementing change in the parks there.  When asked how he did it, he said, "just constantly beating the drums" adding that it wasn't always easy to work with Councilwoman Pat Lockett Felder (who did not return our phone calls or emails). He even runs a website devoted to Springfield parks at Downtownparks.com.  This seems like an appropriate time to mention that Dan & his crew are having a "Throwback Baseball" game this Saturday (tomorrow) at Klutho Park.  In addition to Blanchard, the Springfield Womans Club has been able to secure new bleachers for Klutho Park (from Comcast) & these will be used at the baseball game.  Check out the photos below to see the new bleachers & scoreboard they managed to secure for the event.  There will also be "old-timey" baseball jerseys, beer, hamburgers, hotdogs, etc... The event starts at 2:00.  Also of mention is that the Springfield Womans Club  has recently secured around $400,000.00 for park improvements in Springfield

Let's take a look at the Springfield Park pictures...

A large park in Springfield that has two sides to it.  I didn't make my way over to the side that has a playground and basketball courts, but that side has improved a little since last year.


This statue of Mr. Burns (at the western most entrance) could use some serious pressure-washing.



Streams of beauty.


Put simply, this is a case of poor maintenance.


Randomly select a time to go to Confederate Park and odds are that the wild, loud (and sometimes violent according to some reports) geese will outnumber any people you may see in the park.  (Notice the feces - it's hard to avoid stepping in it when you are visiting the park.)


Some simple edging & pressure-washing would go a long way.




Again, we have some edging issues (not to mention extreme browning of the grass -- irrigation system would be nice).



Try as they might, Dan Blanchard & Co. can't keep out all of the litterbugs. 



Ah...but all is not lost.  I was excited to see this guy hired to pressure wash & clean out the fountain/statue at the front of the park.


And the new scoreboard that will be used at the game on May 5th.


And check out the new bleachers, canopy, sidewalk, trash cans &  baseball infield!!!  


As you can see from the Springfield photos above, many times it is just general maintenance issues that can make a world of difference - like grass cutting & edging, irrigation & trash clean up.  Who is responsible for overseeing the park maintenance function?  That would be Parks Director - John Culbreth. 

His funds come from the city's general fund.  What I would love to know (and admittedly haven't yet asked him) is how he decides what parks get the most attention.  Hopefully SPAR Council and other concerned local businesses in the Springfield area can continue working with Dan Blanchard & the Womens League to keep the parks in Springfield on the path to revival.   Maybe together with Culbreth, they can speed up the process of getting Springfield's park system up to par with those in San Marco.