JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Safety upgrades are on the way for a park in St. Nicholas where neighbors have raised concerns about crime in the area.
The City of Jacksonville is adding security improvements around Palmer Terrace. It's a small but quaint park nestled at the foot of the St. Johns River beneath a canopy of Spanish moss, and early 20th-century style homes.
Neighbors like Jane Bracken enjoy walking their dogs nearby, but have noticed an uptick in bad behavior.
"You find alcohol, cans, bottles, drug paraphernalia back there. There was, somebody who drove a Suburban and got stuck down there a few weeks ago," Bracken explained. She has noticed vandalism in the area and remembers a patio set the neighborhood association set out for neighbors to enjoy awhile back. She said it didn't last long. Someone came by and threw it in the river.
Adding to the mischief, Bracken says more people have hung around at odd hours.
"People that you know don't live in the neighborhood. Which is okay, but it has been overnight. It just seems that it is not the safe place that we'd all like it to be," Bracken said.
That's why people in the neighborhood took their concerns to the city.
While come changes have already been made, more improvements are on the way.
Workers have cleared some of the overgrown bushes and cleaned up the fence lines to make it harder for people to hide. They’ve also locked the gate to block cars from entering. More changes are coming next year including more lighting and improvements to the gate.
"The Park Rules" sign has been replaced, alerting people that park hours are from sun up to sundown.
News4Jax reached out to the City of Jacksonville. Daryl Joseph is the director for the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Community Services. He said to date, city workers have:
- Cleaned up the park's fence lines to provide less areas for individuals to hide
- Locked the drive through gate to not allow vehicles into the park (cars had previously driven to the river to fish and perform other activities)
- Opened the previously locked walk through gate to allow pedestrian access
Joseph also says for Fiscal Year 20, the city has budgeted for a solar lamp to be added. Plus, a new gate mechanism for the walkthrough gate. Neighbors believe this will help with safety as well.
According to JSO’s crime mapping tool, there have been four assaults, three car break-ins and one burglary in the past month, around the mile surrounding the park.
Jay Harrington, president for St. Nicholas Area Preservation, hopes the improvements will be added sooner than later.
"I think it will help. It is one of the goals we have and the SNAP board to try to make things as enjoyable as we can for the neighborhood. We're seeing some progress toward that," Harrington said.
Overall, Harrington and his neighbors said they are pleased with how the city has listened to concerns and taken action.