Holes, exposed nails pose hazards along Riverwalk

City of Jacksonville's demolition, replacement project on hold

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Thousands of people are expected to crowd the banks of the St. Johns River on Saturday night to watch the 29th annual Jacksonville Light Parade -- where a few dozen boats parade lit with holiday decorations cruse from Metropolitan Park and the Fuller Warren Bridge and back.

But those watching from along the Southbank need to watch their step, as the project replacing the deteriorating Riverwalk are on hold.

Work demolishing the existing wooded structure to make way for a concrete Riverwalk that began last month stopped after one building beside the Main Street Bridge was taken down.

The city announced work would pick up again after the Florida Georgia game, but it has not. The fact that the Riverwalk is still open to the public surprises families who walk the area and see the problems.

"This is the first time we have walked on it this year, and, yeah, it's a little questionable -- especially the hole down there and the nails sticking up," said Dave Leadbetter.

That hole is right in the middle of the Riverwalk. In addition to exposed nails and boards missing, there's exposed wires. We don't know if they are not or not.

Asked earlier in the week about the safety of the structure that likely will hold a large crowd to watch the boat parade, city spokeswoman Debbie Delgado sent this statement:

"Per Public Works, the Riverwalk does not pose a structural risk for the crowds expected during the Light Parade. Access to the Riverwalk has not been restricted at this time. Caution should be taken with uneven joints in the wood deck."

But there are not just uneven planks; there are missing planks.

"Someone could fall in that thing and go into the river or trip. You got nails coming lose," said Tony Smith, who walks the River Walk. "One woman got her skirt caught and almost fell. What do we pay the parks department for if they are not going to fix it up?"

The city is spending $15 million to build a new Southbank Riverwalk -- but that's not enough to replace the entire length of the boardwalk. The portion near the Crown Plaza will remain wood because the business has objected to construction outside their hotel. And the project will likely run out of money before the Riverwalk reaches the Duval County School Board Building.

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