I-TEAM: Rowing club once shuttered by city planning new St. Johns County location

Homeowners share safety concerns during meeting; head coach says traffic won’t be issue on State Road 13

Evans Rowing has secured a waterfront site along Julington Creek in St. Johns County, and plans to build the first recreational rowing center in the county, according to a news release sent Thursday.

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Evans Rowing has secured a waterfront site along Julington Creek in St. Johns County, and plans to build the first recreational rowing center in the county, according to a news release sent Thursday.

In April 2019, the News4JAX I-TEAM spoke to Cory and Ronnie Evans — the owners of the rowing club, which at the time had shut down following a battle with residents over traffic congestion in Mandarin. The owners told the I-TEAM they followed all of the city’s rules, but a Judge decided not to allow their attorneys to appeal the city’s decision to stop the club from operating along Hillwood Road.

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Long before they set up shop, the owners said, they say sat down and spoke with code enforcement — who informed them that they were within the law. They were disheartened by the judge’s decision.

Residents along Hillwood Road complained of traffic and congestion, but the Evans told a different story — saying residents tried to obstruct the road before practice in an effort to create a problem.

Years down the road, Evans Rowing is planning to open in a new spot, and some homeowners aren’t pleased. A community meeting was held Thursday night, and a concern of many appears to be safety.

Coaches say 30 to 40 athletes would train on the creek at 4:30 p.m. several days a week and on Saturday mornings. The location — right off a busy road — is the concern of some residents.

Evans Rowing is planning to open in a new spot, and some homeowners aren’t pleased. A community meeting was held Thursday night, and a concern of many appears to be safety.

Chuck Mulligan, former spokesperson for the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office who lives on Wentworth Avenue, drove us along State Road 13 to share his concerns, showing us where and how far traffic can backup in the area.

“If we were gonna turn, we’d have to put our turn signal on and turn into this small driveway,” he demonstrated.

But head coach Ronnie Evans said that’s not the case.

“Our project is so small. It’s not going to impact traffic on State Road 13 or anything,” he said.

He had a response to concerns that traffic from his business could spill onto Wentworth Avenue:

“Just one access point in and out. So, you know, those concerns, I hear them. It’s not really relevant,” he said.

Hector Gonzalez, who lives next door, is concerned about his property value.

“Nobody is gonna wanna buy the house if they have 50 kids here every night, and Saturday morning rowing with their bull horns,” Gonzalez said.

“We support the rowing club, but not the location,” he added.

Nothing is set in stone just yet.

According to the news release, the company researched the area around Julington Creek to find a location that would be visible and easily accessible to members. The 1.62-acre site is currently undergoing re-zoning.


About the Author:

Renee Beninate is a Florida native and award-winning reporter who joined the News4Jax team in June 2021.