Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Changes Coming to Exchange Club Island

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Changes Coming to Exchange Club Island

Article excerpt

Byline: Sandy Strickland

Dear Call Box: I hear there's talk about developing Exchange Club Island for recreational use. Can you tell me the latest plans for the island?

G.A.

Dear G.A.: JaxParks has received a state grant to design a boat dock, two picnic pavilions, a kayak launch and a nature trail, said Pam Roman, the department's marketing and community relations manager.

In July, a public workshop was held with kayakers, boaters, neighbors, Exchange Club and City Council members and others giving input, Roman said.

The 34-acre uninhabited island is underneath the Mathews Bridge, making it one of the most visible in Jacksonville. The National Park Service awarded the city a technical assistance grant to develop a master plan for the park so the island could be incorporated into the St. Johns River Blueway. The St. Johns recently became the state's 48th paddling trail and the longest, stretching 310 miles from Vero Beach to Jacksonville.

Currently, JaxParks is working with the HDR design firm to develop the scope and fee for the design project, Roman said. Design and permitting is expected to be completed by September, she said. The city will seek state grant funds to construct the project. If successful, construction could begin in early 2015, Roman said.

The island was created from dredging operations in the river about 1940 and was commonly known as Mud Island. It was home to an enterprising squatter, who was a commercial fisherman, until 1955. In 1956, the state transferred ownership of the island to Duval County, and it was renamed for the civic organization that led efforts to have it developed into a public park. The Exchange Club tried to develop the island about 50 years ago, but that was abandoned when vandals persisted in destroying facilities. Other uses, such as a sailing club, have been proposed through the years. …

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