The Shipyards become new Green Space Downtown

October 24, 2011 93 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville takes a walk around the Shipyards and suggests a passive natural use that would attract people and wouldn't cost much to implement.

Walking The Shipyards

At least for a while, the Shipyards will be a public park, giving downtown a site big enough for people to pitch picnic blankets, throw Frisbees and just hang out on the St. Johns River.
“We’ve taken that property and stabilized it and turned it from an eyesore into something that people can use and enjoy,” said Paul Crawford, deputy executive director of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission.

Off Limits

The most impressive feature of the Shipyards is completely closed off to the public.  That feature is the riverfront itself, which appears to be serving as a waterfront homeless refuge.

Generating Activity

While the Shipyards property is now visually appealing from a drive down Bay Street, it is physically disconnected from what should be its two strongest assets.  Metro Jacksonville encourages the City of Jacksonville to find a temporary solution to integrate the riverwalk, and the river itself, into the Shipyards.

The Riverwalk

Looking at the end of the Northbank Riverwalk from the Shipyards' publicly accessible green space.  So close, yet so far away.

The Northbank Riverwalk currently terminates at the Shipyards.  Unfortunately, there are two fences that prohibit accessibility to the Shipyards from the riverwalk.  A simple temporary solution is to remove or relocate the fencing system to allow direct access.  If interested in implementing a cheap temporary expansion of the riverwalk, consider allowing access to a portion of the existing concrete bulkhead system that parallels the entire site.  This can easily be done without allowing immediate access to the piers. Such a move would allow the public to walk, jog or bike along the river between Berkman II and Hogans Creek.

This fence condition along Hogans Creek can serve as a visual solution for a temporary riverwalk extension to the Shipyards property.

The placement of a second temporary fence (or relocation of the recently installed fence) at the elevation change of the new bulkhead would allow the existing concrete path to serve as an extension of the riverwalk.

The River

Ortega's Stockton Park is an example of how people can be drawn to a public space that allows riverfront fishing.

The land will be considered a passive park, rather than a place with ballfields and playgrounds. A fence running along the back of the property will keep people from the piers that jut into the river.

Despite being the "River City", downtown Jacksonville is one of the few locations in the county where fishing isn't allowed.  This is a natural popular use of waterfront property that should be integrated into the Shipyards site in some manner.  While the riverwalk is incomplete, there is enough concrete and waterfront frontage on the site to shift fencing in a manner that would allow public access to the river in certain spots.  The homeless have already accessed it, why not allow the public?

The waterfront could be made available for public sightseeing and fishing with a simple relocation of fencing in specific areas.

While the Shipyards life as a green space may be temporary, there's no reason that public access to the river and from the riverwalk should be severed throughout the entire site.  The affordable examples above are two of several ideas and strategies that can be implemented to make this space a well used destination along the downtown waterfront.

Article by Ennis Davis.