Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New Parks Nearing Completion

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New Parks Nearing Completion

Article excerpt

Byline: Caren Burmeister, Shorelines staff writer

After years of planning and budgeting, Jacksonville Beach is almost ready to officially open two multimillion-dollar parks, one near the former fishing pier site on First Street South and the other in a fast-growing area off South Beach Parkway.

City officials will hold a grand opening Aug. 6 for the 1.5-acre oceanfront park between Fifth and Sixth avenues and on Aug. 9 for the 10.5-acre park at South Beach Parkway and Osceola Avenue.

City Manager George Forbes said he's particularly proud of the waterfront park, which the city has been lusting after for years.

"No one is making any more oceanfront land," Forbes said. "It's a beautiful park."

The city spent $2.5 million to buy the land from a South Carolina developer who had envisioned building a 13-story condominium there. The city spent another $1.1 million to develop the land.

"They are working hard to get it done by the grand opening," Forbes said.

The park's centerpiece is its elevated round plaza bordered by bricks, palms and tables that offer a clear view of the ocean. At its center will be a bronze sculpture of a boy riding a dolphin called Sea Express, which is being molded by Kristen Visbal, a Delaware sculptor who also sculpted the bronze tribute to Olympic gold medalist Bob Hayes at A. Philip Randolph Park in Jacksonville.

The park will also have a volleyball court, play area for children, wooden dune walkover to the beach, a ramp to give beach access to the handicapped and educational kiosks to explain the ecosystem, plant life, weather and sea life. It will be closed at night.

Gray and green bricks have been set into a section of First Street to slow traffic and draw attention to the park, similar to the roadway in front of the SeaWalk Pavilion downtown.

Plans for a community center at the base of the former wooden fishing pier are in limbo pending approval of state environmental permits and permission from the Florida governor and Cabinet.

Days after that park opens, the city will officially recognize South Beach Park, which lies in the south end redevelopment district where Jacksonville Beach has sponsored housing subdivisions such as Ocean Cay, Rip Tide and the upcoming Paradise Key. …

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