CRAAB to Submit Waterfront Park Plans for Approval

CRAAB waterfront park plan.


By Mike Lednovich

When the city commission convenes on Jan. 16 they will be presented with the seventh iteration of a waterfront park project in recent decades and also asked for money to fund it. Will this finally be the waterfront concept that gets built?

The city commissioners will be meeting as the executive board of the Community Redevelopment Agency Advisory Board (CRAAB).

On Wednesday, CRAAB members met and finalized their waterfront park plans and presentation for the Jan. 16 meeting.

The working name of the park is “The Wharf,” which is located on six acres of city riverfront property just south of the Atlantic Seafood building. Currently, there are gravel parking spaces — known as parking lots C and D — along with petanque courts, several pergolas and a large grassy field. There is a flood protection wall and concrete walkway along the shoreline.

CRAAB’s proposed “The Wharf” park has an over-the-water observation deck for river views; a multi-purpose pavilion with a performance stage; a seating plaza adjacent to the pavilion; an over-the-marsh gazebo; a children’s play area; a tree grove with a group picnic spot and a continuous loop walkway among its numerous features.

CRAAB members were told the park would cost $300,000, but other estimates said all told a $1 million price tag was within reason.

“There’s $4.2 million sitting in impact fees for parks and recreation. About $1 million of that needs to go to the new soccer complex. That leaves $3.2 million, so I don’t think money is an issue,” Commissioner Chip Ross told CRAAB members. “The big issue is getting a plan across the finish line. It’s one of the few things that there is money for. It’s just sitting there and should be used (for this) park, I think this is a great plan.”

Six previous city-funded waterfront park designs have been rejected by past city commissions, wilting under the scrutiny of city residents who could not agree on whether a riverfront park and its components should even be built on the property.

In December 2021, the city commission voted down a similar park concept plan known as Concept E designed by Marquis Latimer + Halbeck. That plan was two years in the making and included extensive public feedback, but carried a $3 million price tag.

“The Wharf” concept was presented by CRAAB member Eric Bartelt, a retired industrial designer, who has been involved with numerous waterfront park designs for almost 20 years. In 2012, a Bartelt waterfront park design was approved and funded to be built. But city commission elections resulted in a new 2013 commission that voted not to go forward.

“It’s been a long process and I’m hopeful the stars are aligned for this concept,” said Bartelt, who moved to the city in 2004.

Bartelt began his presentation with the reasons why the waterfront park concept should be approved by the city commission. They included:

  • The floodwall/riverwalk has been completed in that section.
  • It’s been 20+ years in the making.
  • The plan significantly improves Parking lots C & D.
  • It upgrades the Community Redevelopment Area’s “blighted area” that is part of the CRA’s purpose.
  • CRAAB is unanimous in supporting the plan.

What has not been determined are the future costs in adding city staff and expenses to maintain the park once it is completed.

Bartelt said the concept was intended to be a low maintenance park.

“A lot of the park is about trees. Once they’re established, they’re established and it’s basically grass and trees with a few other structures,” he said. “If you put in a pavilion you are adding some maintenance. But the alternative is to do nothing down there and what nothing looks like now is blighted.”

Other design features include:

  • A boat ramp plaza in the area where the current Atlantic Seafood building is located. That building will be demolished as part of the city’s flood wall plan.
  • A loop walkway that allows pedestrians to walk along the river, then towards Front Street and back along the parking lots to the boat ramp.
  • A fence in front of the parking area that controls access and provides park security.
  • A park entrance pergola that identifies the main park entrance.
  • A pollinator garden attracting birds, bees and butterflies.
  • A history timeline of plaques on key Amelia Island milestones mounted atop various points of the flood wall.

If the concept and funding plan is approved by city commissioners acting in the capacity of CRAAB’s executive board, the next step would be for the design and funding to be approved by the city commission at a regular meeting.

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Alan Hopkins
Noble Member
Alan Hopkins(@dawaves)
5 months ago

Hopefully the seventh time is the charm. It’s about time that we create an environment at the waterfront that can be enjoyed by all residents and visitors. This would add value to our city if done correctly. I’m confident that with the oversight of the CRABB it will be.

Mark Tomes
Trusted Member
Mark Tomes(@mtomes)
5 months ago

I am glad to see so much attention to pedestrian and non-commercial activities. One concern is not enough living shoreline in front of the concrete wall. Hardened walls eventually create more erosion; it will need to be dealt with further down the line without more marsh in front of it. One blight in the plan is the expanded Atlantic Seafood commercial enterprise. It is a corporate giveaway and has no place in the plan for our citizens.

Trusted Member
5 months ago

This certainly goes in the right direction–maybe a bit over landscaped–more open feeling.
Parking for the new Saltmarsh Restaurant customers?

5 months ago

This plan for a Waterfront Park looks terrific. Let’s not quibble over details which can be adjusted later and instead let’s move ahead as quickly as possible to develop this site into something that adds value to our entire community!

5 months ago

When I’m in Key West I enjoy the Mallory Square Sunset Celebration, and I wonder if such an event would be fun here in Fernandina.

We aren’t the southwesternmost point in Florida looking out over the shimmering gulf, but we are the northeasternmost most point looking out over the hard-working Intracoastal Waterway. Like bookends!

We can do sunset our way, if we want, and this project would be a great start.

Here’s how Key West does theirs:

We’ll need a live statue. Any volunteers?