25-year-old Southbank Riverwalk showing its age

City employees conduct regular safety inspections of aging wooden structure

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Expecting some of the biggest crowds of the year downtown for New Years Eve celebrations and Gator Bowl festivities, Jacksonville is sprucing up downtown. But there are problems on the Southbank Riverwalk that some locals are calling more than an eyesore.

The Riverwalk is more than 25 years old and is showing its age. Nails are protruding from the wood planks and jagged pieces of wood are sticking out of the once smooth surface. Some of the wooden benches are even draped with yellow caution tape.

"You're coming down here to walk because it's a peaceful area and if you don't see some of these spots you could really trip and hurt yourself," said Rusty Mathews, who regularly runs along the Southbank.

A regular visitor to the Riverwalk since she was a kid, Megan O'Hara says there's another danger when the wood gets wet.

"I guess it rained yesterday down there. It's definitely slippery," O'Hara said.

Mathews agrees.

"The woods seems to be decaying and looks pretty old and it's a bit slippery," he told Channel 4's Ashley Mitchem.

Some city employees were out inspecting the Riverwalk on Wednesday. City officials said that there are regular safety checks of the Riverwalk and it is standard procedure to inspect conditions before major events that will attract crowds downtown.

David Potts, who operates River Cruises from a dock on the Riverwalk, says repairs should be made.

"The Southbank really does need to be improved and modernized," Potts said.

Last year, Mayor John Peyton proposed spending $11.9 million on replacing deteriorating wood and making other repairs to the Riverwalk. The work was proposed at the same time that an overhaul of Friendship Fountain was approved. Work on the fountain was completed this summer.

On Wednesday, city officals did not have any information on the status of repairs to the Riverwalk.

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