Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Access to Ortega Riverfront Is Being Threatened Again

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Access to Ortega Riverfront Is Being Threatened Again

Article excerpt

Byline: Ronald L. Littlepage

Some battles are never finished.

This one dates back to at least 1979. That's when a bill was introduced in City Council that would have banned fishing in Stockton Park in Ortega.

There's no use beating around the bush about the reason behind the bill. Some of the rich folks who live in Ortega riverfront mansions have never taken kindly to the poor folks who flocked to the park when the mullet were running to use their long cane poles to snatch a needed meal from the river.

The bill finally passed the council in 1982, but former Mayor Jake Godbold said over his dead body would he let fishing be banned in the park.

The kind of folks fishing there to catch dinner had elected him, not Ortega residents. He promised a veto.

After that threat, and a "fish-in" organized by Vietnam veterans was scheduled to flout the law, the council gave in and fishing at Stockton Park continued.

But, be wary, a move could very well be under way once again to limit the public's access to the St. Johns River at Stockton Park and at nearby Stinson Park, located next to the old Ortega River bridge.

One threat is an ordinance that was introduced in the City Council last month at the request of the Jacksonville Waterways Commission.

The ordinance would prohibit fishing from city-owned property that is posted with "No Fishing" signs.

And this is where it gets dicey: The decision to post the property would be made by the city's parks director and, most likely, the district council member.

City Councilman Michael Corrigan, who represents Ortega, told me last week that he had been getting pressure from a Waterways Commission member who lives on the river to do something about fishing at Stinson Park, which has recently been refurbished.

Corrigan said his response was "I'm not doing that. …

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