Huguenot Park reopens nearly 4 months after Hurricane Matthew

City leaders say storm damage totals more than $1M; Some repairs still underway

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Nearly four months since Hurricane Matthew swept up Florida's east coast, Huguenot Park reopened to the public Tuesday.

The October storm swept away dunes and washed out roadways, and News4Jax got a first-look Tuesday at some of the improvements. But Jacksonville leaders said there's still a lot more work to be done. 

Some of the park's first visitors since its reopening included Lucy Goulet and Atlantic Beach resident, Sheila Tasker.

"I don't think I've ever been here where there's no one on the beach," Tasker said. 

Jacksonville Councilman Al Ferraro said the city has spent more than $500,000 towards repairs and cleanup, including debris removal, rebuilding pavilions and refurbishing bathrooms.

He said the damages add up to more than $1 million.

"In order to get anywhere near the beach, we had to come through the parking lots. We couldn't drive along the water like we used to do," Tasker said. 

Visitors noticed there's still a lot of work to be done, such as tearing up and replacing parts of the main road leading to the campgrounds.

"There's a lot of erosion and it kind of looks like, when the storm happened, that this area was breached and ran into the river," said Jacksonville resident Scott Ketchum. 

Not all of the repairs have been completed because the city is still waiting to hear back about funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to Ferraro. But he had received so many requests from people wanting to come out to Huguenot Park that city leaders decided to open it up early.

PHOTOS: Huguenot Park reopens after Hurricane Matthew

However, the city is concerned about safety, so a lot of areas of the park are still closed or blocked off by barricades and cones. 

"They're still removing some of the sand, and that's noisy," Tasker said. "But the moment you get on the beach, it's still peaceful and relaxing."

The campgrounds and shelters remain closed, but visitors said they don't mind the inconveniences.

"I'm definitely glad they opened it back up," Ketchum said. "It's such a beautiful place."

There's no word on when the rest of the repairs will be done, but visitors can now access the beach daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Huguenot Park for $5 per vehicle.

For more information on park access, call 904-255-4255.