Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mandarin Park May Yet Get Ramp Intended for It

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mandarin Park May Yet Get Ramp Intended for It

Article excerpt

Byline: DAN SCANLAN

An on-again, off-again boat ramp slated for Mandarin Park may be back on track, thanks to $177,000 in funding under review by the Jacksonville City Council.

If Mandarin Park's ramp finally gets built, the area's leading manatee expert said, the endangered marine mammals may benefit as power boat traffic shifts to it from Mandarin's lone, and very busy, city ramp on Hood Landing Road.

The Jacksonville Waterways Commission on June 2 unanimously recommended the use of $177,000 in Florida Boater Improvement Funds to build a one-lane boat ramp with floating dock, parking and lighting at the 6-year-old park at 14780 Mandarin Road. The City Council will receive the recommendation at its Tuesday meeting. If approved, the project could be bid out in the next few months.

Jacksonville University marine biologist Quinton White said the ramp will affect the area's underwater vegetation, on which manatees feed. But since the Mandarin Park site will have more parking spots for boaters, it may draw some from very cramped quarters at the city's Hood Landing boat ramp a few miles up Julington Creek. That means fewer boats mixing with manatees deeper in the creek.

"I will predict a vast majority of boats that fight for parking will move to Mandarin, and that will be a positive influence because you won't have all those boats running up and down Julington Creek," White said. "I have seen manatees there and I know they are there. But we have not had a significant number of manatee deaths in the area, and I hope nothing happens to change that."

Alex Evans, whose AllWet Sports operates a summer kayak, wind-surfing and wakeboard camp at Mandarin Park, said a new ramp for motor boats is fine with him. Plus, there is more parking there.

"It will be good as long as they enforce the no-wake zone between the buoys and shore. It's a good idea. More boat ramps and public access to the river is a good idea," he said. "Look around. This parking lot is empty all the time."

Mandarin boaters have a heavily used single concrete pad big enough for power boats at the end of Hood Landing Road and a small concrete canoe and kayak ramp at County Dock Road. …

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