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Fundraisers aim to reopen Huguenot Park

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two months after Hurricane Matthew hit Jacksonville, there is a renewed push to reopen Huguenot Park.

The Sandollar Restaurant on Heckscher Drive is hosting three fundraisers aimed at helping make that happen. The first fundraiser was a special benefit dinner Friday night that included silent auctions. 

The goal is to reopen Huguenot Park exactly as it was. A big part of the damage was to the road, and the closure of the park has affected a lot of people and businesses.

Jim Rodgers and his wife, Debi, have owned Fort George Surf Shop for 40 years. They've seen a lot in that time. But they never thought their business would be affected.

"What we're doing is we're kind of cutting our belts back a little bit. Spring is going to be here in a little while. A couple months down the road, we'll be back rolling again, “said Rodgers. He is hopeful, but others in the area are frustrated knowing their favorite spot is off-limits.

"It's the best wave 100 miles either way. It's better than Sebastian Inlet, anything in Daytona,
anywhere in St. Augustine. That's why people come from everywhere," said Dick Rosborough, who lives near Huguenot Park.

To help bring people back to the park, the Sandollar Restaurant on Heckscher Drive will be hosting fundraisers all weekend.

Friday night was Starry Night, with twinkling lights set above and tables lit by candles. There was Christmas music sung by Doyle Primm and seafood, steak and lobster for dinner. A silent auction was also available from such sponsors as the Jacksonville Zoo, Adamec Harley, Daileys and many more.

Family Day will be from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. There will be a bounce house, face painting, balloons and visitors from the Jacksonville Zoo.

Then, Ride for Restoration will be from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Bikers will ride out to Sandollar for their first-ever wing bar. There will be bucket specials, live bands and raffles throughout the day.

The money will go toward reopening the park.

"We're getting a very good response,” said Lee Smith, who has been with the restaurant for several years and hears the concern from regulars. They want the park to reopen this spring, exactly as it was, before Matthew.

"To see that destroyed, they want to do everything they can to increase the chances of it getting back up and running," said Smith.

Rodgers is doing his part. Not only is he going to the events, he's donating a surfboard for the auction.
 
"I've got all the confidence in the world in the park staff. I think they're doing all they can. We're behind them 100 percent," Rodgers said.


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