Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City Faces Issues to Get Rid of Boat Wrecks in Mandarin; Removal of Two Abandoned Boats Is Not a Simple as Just Towing Them Away

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City Faces Issues to Get Rid of Boat Wrecks in Mandarin; Removal of Two Abandoned Boats Is Not a Simple as Just Towing Them Away

Article excerpt

Byline: DAN SCANLAN

It's a scene straight out of Gilligan's Island: A shipwrecked boat, sitting askew on the shore - except this is on the banks of the St. Johns River, not on a Pacific isle.

Another boat floated, capsized, in the middle of the County Dock Road boat ramp's right of way, its dark hull awash, its propeller perched high out of the water.

City officials know how both nautical wrecks got there, one at each waterfront end of Walter Jones Historical Park's property at 11964 Mandarin Road.

But when can the city tow them away?

Jim Suber, Jacksonville waterways coordinator and dockmaster, said the beached cabin cruiser may require a state environmental OK to move. And until police hauled away the capsized skiff on Dec. 5, it could have been hazardous to canoeists, kayakers and small-boat owners who use the County Dock Road city ramp.

"Anything is subject to high tide and high winds," he said. "Anything in the water is a hazard to navigation if it is unlit."

St. Johns Riverkeeper Neil Armingeon, whose nonprofit group monitors the ecological health of the river in Northeast Florida, has seen both wrecks. He said abandoned boats are a navigational hazard that can't just be towed away. State and city action is required to get the boats removed, he said, and that takes time.

"Abandoned boats and those sinking is a huge problem all over this county, and we have had reports of boats leaking fuel or oil in the initial phases of sinking," Armingeon said. "The real problem is that most people don't realize there is a legal process with the owner. People just think the government will take care of it, but it is not that easy."

City officials say the first shipwreck dates back more than a year. The beached cabin cruiser sits on private land just southwest of the park and an adjacent private dock, in a tidal wetlands area of the river. No one has claimed ownership, Suber said.

"Someone pulled it into Mandarin to work on it, and it broke loose during a nor'easter and blew up on the shore," he said. "[The owner] abandoned it. We tried to track him down and he wouldn't claim it was his. …

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