NAAS Green Cove Springs: Ruins of Northeast Florida

September 10, 2014 4 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

What do treasure hunting trips, hovercrafts, ferries, space exploration, and vintage rail cars have to do with one another? All are related to the environment that makes Reynolds Industrial Park and Clay County Port (formerly NAAS Green Cove Springs) one of the most interesting spots for storytelling in Northeast Florida.

Clay County Port

The Cloud X is a SWATH ship that is designed to hold 367 passengers with a max speed of 27 knots. Prior to arriving at Green Cove Springs, the Cloud X operated as a commercial day ferry for six months between West Palm Beach and Freeport, Bahamas.

The 297 ton "Who Cares" was built by Serenity Shipbuilders, LLC. in Lockport, La. in 1999. Owned by Wingstone Li Toy Company LLC., it is 106 feet in length, with a breadth of 26 feet and depth of 7 feet.

Apparently too large to move, Green Cove Springs is the current resting place of NASA's 154-foot-long Space Shuttle external fuel tank. Known as the Structural Test Article (STA), the external tank was built in 1977 and used for loading and stress analysis tests. In 2013, it was moved by barge to Green Cove Springs, in anticipation of being delivered by truck to the Wings of Dreams museum in Keystone Heights.

Close-up view of Space Shuttle Columbia on Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in the early 1980s. Photograph courtesy of State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

Located at Pier 5, Smith Maritime is an ocean towing and salvage services business.

There are several abandoned box cars at the port that once belonged to Sun State Marine Services. Now defunct, Sun State was a full service marine transportation and shipyard company. In 2000, Sun State employed 50 people at Pier 3, which operated 24 hours a day with three dry docks. In 2004, the facility was taken over by Southeastern Sandblasting and Painting, Inc. (Southern Dry Dock).  In 2012, Southern Dry Dock relocated to a downtown Jacksonville wharf at the historic Ford Assembly plant complex.

The Sea Voyager is a 301 passenger ship built by Jacksonville's Atlantic Marine (now BAE Systems) and launced in 2001.  The ship has been moored at Green Cove Springs since the 2001 bankruptcy of American Classic Voyages.

Mothball fleet in 1958. Photograph courtesy of State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

Abandoned precast concrete beams from Reynolds Park's era as a major concrete production center. In 1978, Leonard C. Taylor established the Taylor Concrete & Supply, Inc. at Reynolds Park with seven employees and three trucks. Between 1978 and 1988, the company expanded from 1 Redimix Concrete plant to a total of 8 plants within the region, producing both Redimix and Precast concrete. In 1998, the company was sold to Joelson Pipe and then to Hanson Products in 2001. At the time, 170 were employed in Green Cove Springs.  In Spring 2010, State Road 16 was renamed Leonard C. Taylor Parkway in honor of Leonard Taylor who passed in 1986.

Reynolds Park Yacht Center features 70 ships and 49,000 linear feet of fixed concrete pier and bulkhead. Repairs and services of all types are arranged through Holland Marine which is adjacent to the facility.

The Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company has grown to become America's largest dredging contractor. Based out of Oak Brook, IL, over the last 120 years, famed projects this company has worked on includes the Jacksonville Harbor, Chicago's Navy Pier and shoreline reclamation for that city's Shedd Aquarium and Soldier Field.  Green Cove Springs is one of the company's two locations in Florida.

Naval ships "mothballed" at Green Cove Springs. Photograph courtesy of State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

Not many people are aware that one of the previous rusting relics at the Green Cove docks was once a treasure hunting ship. The Arctic Ranger was christened as a Canadian fishing vessel in 1987. In 1988, Tommy Thompson and the Columbus-America Discovery Group transformed the vessel into the treasure hunting ship called Arctic Discoverer. With this ship and Nemo, their underwater remotely operated vehicle, the crew successfully rediscovered gold from from the 1857 wreck of the S.S. Central America. At the time of its sinking, due to a hurrican off the coast of the Carolinas, Central America carried gold then valued at approximately $2 million USD. The loss shook public confidence in the economy, and contributed to the Panic of 1857. The total value of the recovered gold was estimated at $100–150 million.

The Shands Bridge, just east of Reynolds Park, was dedicated on October 30, 1963. It replaced a wooden structure that was completed in 1929.

Seeing the river as a major obstacle between Clay and St. Johns Counties, Allie G. Shands, an engineer and native of Levy County, designed and secured financing for the world's longest wooden bridge when completed in 1928. Spanning almost 2.4 miles, Shands charged a nickel toll for pedestrians and 75 centes for vehicles.  In 1934, tolls were removed off the old bridge when the state of Florida took over the responsibility for maintaining it.

What many in Northeast Florida may not realize is when the current bridge opened in 1963, 1,500 feet of the old bridge was preserved as a fishing pier. 50 years later, the old wooden structure remains a popular destination for fisherman and residents looking to get a clear glimpse of the Clay County Port.

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