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Northbank Riverwalk footbridge to be replaced by path, kayak launch

Pedestrians must detour around construction, expected to last 5 months

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Changes will soon be coming to the Northbank Riverwalk as crews begin to demolish a footbridge over the inlet at Sidney Gefen Park near Riverside Avenue and Forest Street.

The footbridge will be replaced with a new path and kayak launch area, but until those are added, pedestrians will have to take a detour during construction.

It's a prospect that Jacksonville resident Moses Igwe-Onu isn't looking forward to.

"I don't want to walk to the street and back to the sidewalk,” Igwe-Onu said. “If they're going to have a temporary walkway, it better not be close to Riverside (Avenue).”

Jacksonville City Council members said the elements are causing the wood under the footbridge to deteriorate, and on top, uneven planks, holes and chips in the wood are noticeable.

"It's in pretty bad shape,” Jacksonville resident Andy Zarka said. “It's become a tripping hazard. When I run over it, I have my eyes straight down, making sure I don't catch a toe.”

Instead of making costly repairs in the future, the city decided to tear down the footbridge altogether, but instead of a new bridge, a foot path will be built on the shoreline.

"My concern is that they have to have something wide enough for the people to take this path,” Igwe-Onu said. “It's sad to see the bridge go."

There will also be a kayak launch area added to the path, something city council members hope will get more people out on the water.

"The river's always been one of our greatest assets, and I think it's long been under-appreciated,” Zarka said.

But Igwe-Onu said he doubts the launch will see much use.

"I don't see a lot of them using the water except when there's an event,” he said.

A second kayak launch spot is expected to be built on the Southbank next to the Duval County School Board building. Both will be wheelchair accessible.

Some voiced their concerns Monday about the project to replace the footbridge.

"It's somewhat troubling, because we really haven't gotten a whole lot of information on what the bridge is going to look like, or how it's going to impact us,” Jacksonville resident Vance Cogdell said.

Others said it's a necessary change that they'll just have to deal with.

"We'll adjust,” Jacksonville resident Randisha Smith said. “We'll find a new way until it's changed. Hopefully it won't take too long."

Construction is expected to last about five months.