Daylight Savings Time is really kicking my butt this year for some reason, and I’ll be up early in the morning. So, because I think it’s a pretty good piece, here’s the post I submitted for “JaxDaily” this week.
What Now for Mayport?
Saturday, for the first time since the debate over the proposed Mayport Cruise Terminal began, I saw an article in the Shorelines section of the FT-U positing that blocking the terminal might not be the best thing for the tiny village.
The reprieve is likely only temporary. There is not a great deal of demand for new cruise business right now, and JaxPort has bigger fish to fry with its core container business. With the economy lingering in the doldrums, I’m frankly surprised that the decision didn’t come sooner. But for now, the 8 expensive, valuable, waterfront acres will remain fenced off from the public, doing nothing.
But now that the Mayport Waterfront Association has won its reprieve … the lingering question is “what will they do with it”. Unless I’m missing something, JaxPort is unlikely to want to let go of the property for anything other than market value if at all, and certainly, time is on their side. From my vantage point, I don’t see any compelling reason for the JaxPort to let go of their investment for a waterfront park, maritime museum, or any of the other things that have been mentioned. For the foreseeable future, it’s chain link fence, barbed wire, and old concrete pads where buildings once stood.
If the Waterfront Association wants to have any chance of winning any part of this fight in the long term, they need to not rest on their laurels for even a moment. I still see a cruise terminal in Mayport, but I’ve misread tea leaves before. But for the people living in the village who were so adamantly opposed to the cruise ships, if a year, or two, or more pass with no CONCRETE plans and funding lined up … they’ll be in a much weaker position when JaxPort decides to go back to the city council for the zoning it needs to build the terminal. If nothings been done … JaxPort will ask, and rightly so, “what have you been doing to improve the village”? If the answer is “waiting for someone to give us more money to do something”, then look for cruise ships to be tied up at Mayport.
I understand this is not like someone buying a house close to an airport and then complaining about the noise. The cruise terminal is not already there, but neither is much of anything else. The commercial fishing industry faces huge challenges from overfishing and farm-raised imports, and my never be what it was as an economic engine for the village. With the just-announced ban on taking red snapper set to go into effect this summer, making Mayport a charter fishing boat hub may face an uphill climb as well. I’m not trying to be a naysayer to everything that’s been mentioned, but wishing won’t make it so.
Free advice being worth what you pay for it, here’s a thought. The folks who want Mayport to be more than just a cruise terminal need to start now. It’s not enough to just say you want to preserve the heritage of the village. I don’t think anyone can honestly say they believe change isn’t coming. I’m not one who thinks the cruise terminal would be a bad thing, but I also don’t live next door. I do spend time in Mayport, and would love to see the area thrive. Both sides have their points … and while it’s on hold for now … the debate is far from over.