Kayaking in the Heart of Jacksonville

Eco Tourism in Jacksonville, Residence who are drawn to downtown, People utilizing the St. John’s River for human powered vessels!

OH MY! This must be a conspiracy.

Funny, how one unintentional act may lead you to a purpose.

Last month Joe and I were invited to a Jacksonville Vision meeting, looking at improving paddling access downtown, we did not go to the meeting, yet we were put on an email list to be informed about other meetings of this nature. It turns out that this was an important enough meeting to bring in front of a sub committee of the Jacksonville Waterways Commission, the following week, chaired by Gary Anderson. Joe and I felt we had a lot to share about paddling downtown since we were the only outfitter at the time taking groups out on the St. John’s in urban Jacksonville. We have compiled a years worth of wonderful photos, traversed the river in many conditions, and knew the city owned this beautiful 34 acre island that was given to the us in the 50′s to create a “boaters paradise”. We were afraid that the city wanted to promote paddling in downtown Jacksonville without opening up safe launch points. Granted there is River City Boat Launch, nice launch site but we feel if Jacksonville really wants to promote herself as a paddler¬†friendly¬†place, then we need to open paddler¬†friendly¬†launches in not such turbulent areas. So, we contacted Mr. Anderson to ask if we could have a few minutes of¬†their¬†time to share our experience, they were very receptive. We created a presentation hoping it would entertain and inspire its viewers, giving them a paddlers perspective of urban Jacksonville from the water.

Not really knowing how important the first meeting was, we were asked to present at the next meeting, the September 14th 2011 Jacksonville Waterways Commissions monthly meeting in the chamber hall. We were a little nervous to say the least but we knew we had a golden opportunity to speak for our paddling community.

Here is a link to the presentation if you would like to take a look.

Kayaking Downtown Presentation

We are not sure what the next move is but were promised that this would be an important subject in the coming months and we would be asked to attend many more meeting to come. Joe and I relized that this is a topic gaining momentum again and do not want to see it swept under the rug or fizzled out.

We feel actions speak louder than words so our first step was getting the community involved in Exchange Club Island, what better way than hold a clean up of the island and let the city know, that we the paddling community are growing and involved. We decide on October 1st, yet we were informed that the Exchange Club was doing a clean up the next Saturday. We contacted the president of the club to ask if we could partner with them on their annual clean up on Oct. 8th, being that they are the care takers of the Island. They were excited to get other people involved and asked Joe and I to come to their monthly meeting at the University Club where we were to inform them to what we were up to on Exchange Island.

We have found that this sleepy little island under the Mathews Bridge actually has a lot more support than previously thought.

Our vision for Downtown Jacksonville is not just a far off dream that will cost the city and her residence lots of money. Making Jacksonville one of the nations paddling destinations is very realistic. We have all the ingredients  needed, we just have to know how to use it.river side arts market

There is a lot of land along the St. John’s River in DTJax that “WE” ¬†the city owns, most of it is fenced off, abandoned, or just neglected. Jacksonville needs her residence to get involved in the revitalization and creating areas to launch¬†safely¬†and destinations for people to go in human powered vessels, we could be the start.

Joe and I realize that we are not the first or the last to come up with this idea but now may be the time to put our actions where our mouths are. We have had a lot of feed back about how many people have been involved with efforts to revitalize Jacksonville. We “Jacksonville” has done a great job in the past and present towards the revitalization but everything is about timing as I have been told and lets ride the wave. The paddling industry is one of the number one growing industries in the US and maybe the world.

I have been involved in kayaking for 11 years in Jacksonville and a native to Atlantic Beach, this is the first time I have seen and felt so much support from our residence and city offices for the paddling community. Joe having grown up in Orlando watching the boom of tourism and revitalization of downtown Orlando, then off to college near Asheville NC seeing how the area thrives off eco tourism, to moving to Charleston to work for an international kayak manufacturer EPIC and as a kayak guide for the county parks where he received his training to become a kayak instructor, Joe has a vision for what is possible in our community. He has seen cities that thrive off their natural resources, history while create healthy communities, more jobs, and a very profitable eco tourism market.

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