Boaters stranded by lack of access to Jacksonville city docks

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville may be known as the River City, but it's beginning to gain a reputation among boaters as a city where it's tough to find a place to dock.

The city marina at Metropolitan Park is one of the few remaining public docks downtown after most of them were wiped out amid Hurricanes Matthew and Irma. Even though the marina survived the storms, it's been closed for several days to prepare for this weekend's Welcome to Rockville concert.

Now boaters are concerned they will be out of luck this weekend too.

"This is it for downtown Jacksonville and it's the city marina. For almost 12, 13 days, it was in lockdown," said Lisa Almeida, who operates Freedom Boat Club, a boat rental business.

Almeida said boaters were caught off-guard last weekend when there was nowhere to dock their boats. She added that no one knew the docks at the marina were off limits in advance of the concert.

"This is the city marina for the city of Jacksonville in lockdown," she said. "It's crazy."

The city docks near The Landing have not yet been repaired or replaced in the wake of the hurricanes. In a statement issued through a spokesperson, the city said getting the docks back up and running is a priority, but noted there are steps still remaining before construction can begin.

"The downtown docks have been professionally inspected and the department is currently in the process of having the docking areas designed and engineered. The construction timeline is to be determined," the statement said.

In the meantime, Almeida said the city needs to find a way to secure the Metro Park concert venue without restricting dock access for boaters.

"This is what the marina is here for, so the boaters can come and enjoy these things," she said.

Dockmaster Jim Suber said the city is rolling out some changes this weekend to accommodate boaters and concertgoers alike. Chiefly, he said, the city made a path to streamline access to the marina.

"Some of the facilities will be closed, but we will still have some availability for boaters," Suber said.

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Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.