Category Archives: Atlantic Beach

Preserve The St. Johns River Ferry

It’s amazing, sometimes, how you can find yourself in the center of something that can really make a difference in your community. Such is the case with the task force to save, and then preserve, the St. Johns River Ferry Service.

Ferry Task Force Beaches WatchThe ferry, often referred to as the Mayport ferry, is in danger of being permanently docked. And as 13th district councilman Bill Guliford said at Wednesday night’s Beaches Watch meeting, if the service ends, it will be very difficult to resurrect it. So, led by former council president Elaine Brown, long a champion of beach community issues and beaches businesses, we are embarked on a mission to see that it is not allowed to come to that end.

Jacksonville Port Authority spokesperson Nancy Rubin says that the ferry carries an annual operating deficit of some $600,000 to $700,000, and is in immediate need of about $4 million in repairs and upgrades to the berths at either end of the short trip across the river. JPA executive director Paul Anderson has said that the continued operations of the ferry is not consistent with the port’s business model, and is not sustainable in its present form. At a meeting on February 27th, he will ask the board for guidance as to how to proceed, but he has been very clear that he hopes to return the ferry, and the associated land, to the city. The city has been reluctant at best to agree to consider re-assuming responsibility for the service. The state, which most believe should be the entity operating the ferry, washed its hands of the service several years ago. Basically, it’s like they determined that they were no longer going to pay to maintain a bridge over a waterway that connects a state highway … which the ferry does.

Ferry DockingAll of that to say that, I’ve been asked by Elaine to lead the media and PR efforts for the task force. We will have a website, Facebook presence, and other social media components to the effort. If you ride the ferry, occasionally or regularly, you can expect to see very shortly volunteers at both landings asking you to take a brief survey and sign a petition. I’ll be posting about the issue here, and producing some video pieces to illustrate the issue.

If you care about the ferry, and there are a multitude of reasons for you to do so, from its historic significance to the economic impact is has on Mayport, the beaches communities, and many other businesses that line A1A between St. Augustine and Fernandina Beach, consider signing a petition, making a donation, contacting the Mayor’s office and your representative of the City Council to make your opinion known. Do keep in mind that all e-mails sent to the Mayor and City Council are public records. If … I probably should say when … we go to the city for funding for the ferry, it will require the votes of 10 council members to get it back in the budget.

But most importantly, tell your friends. I can’t imagine the First Coast without the ferry. Let’s see that it doesn’t happen. (Pictured L-R Elaine Brown, Task Force Chair; Val Bostwick, President, Friends of the St. Johns River Ferry; Nancy Rubin, Jacksonville Port Authority spokesperson; Sam Floyd, Mayport Waterfront Partnership Chairman; Councilman Bill Guliford presenting at Beaches Watch)



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Filed under Atlantic Beach, Beach Living, City Budget, City Council, Florida Budget, Jacksonville Beach, Jacksonville City Council, Mayport, Mayport Ferry, Neptune Beach

That’s A Plane On The Beach

I got a call from a friend today that a plane had landed on Atlantic Beach. I almost didn’t go down there, but then how often do you get to see an airplane on the beach.

iPhone video of a plane which landed on Atlantic Beach

The pilot reportedly took off from Jacksonville Executive Airport at Craig Field, and had a fuel issue. My friend had been there earlier, and had said that the pilot apparently landed on the hard packed sand at low tide. Local officials managed to pull the plane up the beach to a spot above the high tide line.

The plane looked undamaged. No obvious signs of fluid leaks, and apparently the landing gear worked. FAA records indicate it’s a 1970 Mooney M20F. The only other soul on board at the time of the incident was the pilot’s dog. Both were reportedly just fine.

I’m also very impressed with the video quality from the iPhone. It’s the first little b-roll clip I’ve shot with the phone, and while it’s not full HD by any estimation, it’s not bad for video shot on a phone.

Mooney On The BeachNo, it’s not every day you get to see a plane on the beach. It happened to Andie’s dad once, back in his flying days. The NTSB finally determined that the A & P who had done the annual on his airplane had not put the oil system back together properly, and the engine threw all it’s oil. Fine during preflight, but during the flight, suddenly the prop has stopped. He landed safely on St. Augustine beach, and as far as I know has not flown as pilot in command since. The family story is that it was his third unscheduled arrival, and he figured he’d quit before his luck ran out.

Walking back to the car, a gentleman walking towards the plane pointed and said “What’s that?” I couldn’t resist. “It’s an airplane,” I replied. Fortunately, he had a sense of humor. “I see that,” he said. “It’s not supposed to be there.”

“No, it’s not,” I said. He asked what I knew, and I told him. It’s just what I’d read online before heading down to the beach. The NTSB usually has a preliminary report out in 10 business days following an incident such as this. It’ll be an interesting read, I’m sure.



Filed under Airplanes, Atlantic Beach, Aviation

Art in the Park

Johansen ParkAfter two improv sets at the Riverside Arts Market, I came back to the beach and rode my bike up to “Art in the Park” at Johansen Park in Atlantic Beach.  The one day event was a juried show for some of the artists, and a really great way for folks to get together for a free art show.

Johnansen Park is a little pocket park on Seminole Road in Atlantic Beach.  It was ideal for the three dozen or so artists and vendors displaying their work.  It was a beautiful afternoon at the beach.  Crisp, clear, blue skies, a breeze coming off the ocean kept the temperature from being too warm … all in all better weather could not be had.Primative Pottery

There were several photographers there, many who had had their work printed onto canvass to look like paintings.  Several painters displaying both traditional and abstract styles.  The requisite number of jewelry makers were scattered among the displays, with everything ranging from beads to hand-crafted glass.  There were also several vendors displaying primitive-style pottery that is so popular in the North Carolina mountains.  We saw a lot of it when we visited Andie’s dad up near Spruce Pine last summer.  Very basic, clean, simple designs that appeal to so many people.  I looks as if it should be easy, and yet I’m sure it takes a skilled artist to make it look so simple.

Wood Fish

Not so simple were the very realistic-looking fish carved out of driftwood and old limbs.  Chatting with the artist, he told us he used very little more than a chain saw and sandpaper to create his pieces.  Some, like this piece, resembled the moray and green eels that we see so often scuba diving in Florida and the Bahamas.  He had less fearsome-looking fish as well, and one really cool snake that he said he’d had to put aside because it was scaring some of the kids.

So, it was an all-arts Saturday.  First at the full-tilt-boogie Riverside Arts Market, and then at the much more intimate Johansen Park. In these difficult economic times, it’s good to know that you can find a full day’s entertainment for what ever you might spend on a  couple of bottles of water and a bite to eat … if you’re willing to look.



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Filed under Art, Atlantic Beach, Beach Living, Photography, Thoughts

Dutton Island

Dutton Island 11 Tucked away in Atlantic Beach along the Intercoastal Waterway is Dutton Island Park and Preserve.  The land was purchased  from the estate of Walter Dutton by the City of Atlantic Beach in 1998, and developed into a preserve and canoe/kayak launch, as well as a nice long walking trail, some picnic tables, and about 8 parking spaces, including one handicapped space.  If you didn’t know it was there … you’d never know it was there.

Fortunately, I know it’s there, but I’d never been.  So, with Andie working today, I thought I’d go see it, and show it to you.

This was one of the last pictures I took this afternoon.  I’d walked about half way around the loop that is carved out of the upland hammock looking for something near the water.  Having not been to the preserve before, I didn’t have any idea what I was looking for.  But when I found it, it was everything I’d hoped it would be.

Dutton Island 7 I love things in the water … as long as they’re not contaminating things.  On closer inspection, I think this may have been part of an old duck blind … used to hunt in the marsh.  I hope the hunting took place before the houses I cropped from the shot were built.  I think I’d be a little nervous if guys wearing cammo were sitting in the rain with shotguns 50 yards from my house.  Now, it’s simply some old boards sitting in the shallows of the Intercoastal Waterway, although I supposed someone could pull a boat up behind them.  But not at low tide.  The water in this estuary is no more than about 6 inches deep.  A canoe, maybe.  But if you go aground, you’re going to be waiting for rising water or have very, very muddy boots.

Dutton Island 5Along the path were several fallen trees which had been cut up by the park caretakers.  You have to look at this one big on Flickr … but I swear there are two little beady eyes peering back at me out of the hollow log.  I didn’t see them until I had gotten the pictures home I was trying to get the grain of the log and the patten of the hollowed out center.  I was surprised when I got the chip out of the camera and looked at the capture in Windows Photo Editor and saw something looking back at me.  It might have been a little creepy, but I’ve seen enough episodes of “Ghost Hunters” to know it was just the light reflecting off the eyes of some little critter.  A possum or maybe a raccoon.  It may be out of it’s den right now looking for small crustaceans, or digging through the trash of one of the nearby houses.

Dutton Island 8 At low tide, the oysters are out of the water, little razor-sharp shells that have sliced open the feet of many unwary waders.  I doubt these would be an issue, since you’d have to wade through probably feet-deep muck to get to the oyster beds … but when dredge spoils from the river were used to re-nourish Jacksonville Beach … and the oyster shells were spread out with the sand … there were so many complaints from beach-goers that the city and Corps of Engineers were forced to go out and sift as many of the oyster shells out of the beach sand as they could.  But you still find more than you’d expect walking along south Jacksonville Beach.  As I said, I for some reason like things sticking out of the water … and these oysters caught my eye.  The only thing better than photographing them would have been shucking and eating them … but not from this water.  I’ll leave them safely in the mud.

I’ll go back to Dutton Island, when I have a little more time.  I’m not going to wait until high summer when the mosquitos and no-see-ums from the marsh would likely carry me away, or leave me a drained and bloodless corpse among the scrub oaks and palmettos.  But it is very nice to know that such an exceptional place is so close to home .



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Filed under Atlantic Beach, City Parks, Dutton Island, Photography, Thoughts, Urban Nature