By Riverfront Parks Now on August 10, 2020
The future of the 23-acre Metropolitan Park is at stake and we need your help.
In Bill 2019-0555, Mayor Curry is seeking the approval of the City Council to pay back one of the original grants received to establish Metropolitan Park in 1981. The bill would release the City from its obligation to continue to maintain the land for public recreation and access, paving the way for private development.
In addition, the City has been negotiating with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and National Park Service on a proposed land swap to release the restrictions on the rest of Metropolitan Park. To date, the results of these discussions have not been made public.
The future of our downtown riverfront is too important for this decision to be made without public involvement and without having a cohesive community-driven vision and well-designed master plan for our riverfront public lands.
ACTION NEEDED: Call/Write to City Council
• Bill 2019-0555 should be WITHDRAWN.
- Taxpayer dollars should not be spent to remove an existing public riverfront park, especially given the many unknowns of what is viable, funded and publicly supported as a replacement. This is a negative precedent that endangers all other public park lands in Jacksonville.
- The bill is confusing and does not address the fact that the park was created with two grants on two parcels, and only one grant is referenced. No action should be taken without a complete review of both grant requirements and obligations of the City, the rationale for the decision, and how the citizens of Jacksonville would benefit from this decision.
- If a “land swap” is proposed, the City would need to purchase or provide recreational lands of equivalent use, acreage, and current market value. No information has been provided to the community about what lands may be under consideration and whether the National Park Service has approved them.
- Considering the importance of this decision, the citizens of Jacksonville deserve full transparency and the opportunity to provide input and help determine the future of our riverfront. We call for a Town Hall/Special Council Meeting on this topic to better understand and fully vet what is being proposed and provide an opportunity for public comments and questions.
- A community-driven vision and master plan for our riverfront should be created involving the future of our publicly-owned riverfront lands. Such a plan would include Metropolitan Park, along with other downtown parks, public spaces, and undeveloped riverfront parcels on both the Northbank and Southbank.
• If Bill 2019-0555 comes to a vote, VOTE NO.
WHO TO CALL/EMAIL:
1. Your City Council representative and all At-large Council Members
2. Acting Council President, Sam Newby, firstname.lastname@example.org, 255-5219
3. Neighborhoods Chair, Randy White, email@example.com, 255-5212
4. Finance Chair, Matt Carlucci, firstname.lastname@example.org, 255-5217
5. Transportation (TEU) Chair, Ron Salem, email@example.com, 255-5216
About Bill 2019-0555
Bill 2019-0555 was introduced in August, 2019 by then Council President Scott Wilson at the request of Mayor Curry. The bill has been deferred each cycle since then, but may now be taken up. The bill is scheduled to go through three Committees: Neighborhoods, Transportation (TEU) and Finance. Each committee will vote on a recommendation which will go to the full City Council for a final vote.
Legal/Compliance Issue: Metropolitan Park was created with two separate grants for different parcels, and each has different legal requirements. A full explanation of the city’s proposed transaction, including how it satisfies the legality of the grant agreements, must be made transparent to the public and to the Council.
The next Committee meetings are August 17 (Neighborhoods, 9:30 a.m. and TEU at 2 p.m.) and August 18 (Finance at 9:30 a.m.) at which time the bill may be taken up or deferred again. Please click to see the Council Committee Agendas and Schedules.
About Metropolitan Park
Metropolitan Park was initially established with a 1981 grant from the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), through an agreement with the State of Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection. The park was to remain in perpetuity for recreational use by the citizens of Jacksonville.
A second grant was received in 1986 from the Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program (FRDAP), adding a second parcel (8.68 acres) to the western side of the park that became the Kids Kampus. No significant investment has been made in the park since 2001 when the Kids Kampus was built. In 2011, the city demolished the Kids Kampus and then dismantled the pavilion where concerts were staged.
The 23-acre park sits on the St. Johns River with a marina, mature trees, a large open gathering space, and the Fire Museum. It has the basic elements that could form a revitalized downtown signature park and anchor for a connected network of parks.
About Riverfront Parks Now
Riverfront Parks Now is a citizen-led initiative consisting of representatives from non-profit organizations including Scenic Jacksonville, the Late Bloomers Garden Club, The Garden Club of Jacksonville, Greenscape, and the St. Johns Riverkeeper.
Riverfront Parks Now envisions a connected series of downtown parks and green space along the river that includes a signature destination park for all to enjoy. Such a park system will connect the community to the river, create a more resilient Downtown, and provide a catalyst to surrounding development.