Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Another Fight over Access to the River

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Another Fight over Access to the River

Article excerpt

Byline: Ron Littlepage

The St. Johns River is often described as our greatest natural resource.

Unfortunately, the public can't get to much of the river because expensive riverfront homes are built along most of its banks in Jacksonville.

An exception to that can be found in the Riverside and Avondale neighborhoods where the public has access to the river through about a dozen small, park-like settings that have been in public ownership since the early 1900s.

But every so often, battles erupt when adjacent property owners try to close off those access points.

That's happening now as legislation has been filed in City Council to give to the adjacent property owners the 60-foot-wide stretch that leads to the river from where Little Van Wert ends.

Let's be clear from the start:

It's understandable why these two property owners are upset.

The property has been a mess.

It has been so overgrown at times that it resembled a jungle more than a park.

It's often strewn with trash with empty beer cans a common sight.

There have been complaints of drinking, drug use, loud music, profanity and public sex.

Today the property looks better after area residents who are concerned about losing a public right-of-way they use pitched in to have it cleaned up.

That's commendable, but that should be the city's job.

In fact, if there is fault here, it belongs to the city and to the Sheriff's Office - the city for, as is often the case, failing to properly maintain park property and the Sheriff's Office for failing to enforce the law.

Rather than taking the nuclear option and closing a valuable public access point to the river, the city and JSO should just do their jobs.

The legislation itself is unusual in that it was introduced by Councilman Richard Clark, who represents part of East Arlington, instead of the district councilman, Jim Love.

It's being shepherded through the process by go-to lobbyist Paul Harden. …

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