Tag Archives: Neptune 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

Stimulus Projects At The Beach

Money to the north of us, money to the south of us, but Neptune Beach is left with a shrinking tax base, but still too much money to get anything from the federal stimulus. I wonder if we’re the only little town in the nation to not get a dime.

Mayport FerryTo the north, the Mayport Ferry is slated for $3 million for upgrades to the ramps that get the cars on and off the ferry. Ports spokeswoman Nancy Rubin said every dime will be spent on the ramps. It doesn’t seem like you could spend $3 million on ferry ramps, but I suppose it’s possible. It’s really a pity that some of that can’t go into operating, because it won’t matter how nice the ramps are to get on and off the boats if the boats aren’t running, but I know that’s not the way the stimulus money works. Operating a ferry is not a “shovel ready” project that puts people to work. Hiring contractors to build new ramps is a “shovel ready” project, so new ramps it’ll be.

Still, that’s not necessarily bad news. It does mean there’s a commitment to the ferry, and that’s been an open question for a while. I don’t think they’d pump that kind of money into the ramps if they planned to stop running the boat. But then, it might be the only thing they were allowed to spend the money on.

To the south, there’s $5 million to be spent on 9th street south from 1st Avenue South to Osceola Avenue. Curbs, gutters, sidewalks, and drainage. Not that 9th street doesn’t need it, it does. It’s a pretty major thoroughfare between Beach Boulevard and South Beach Avenue. It runs through an area of Jacksonville Beach known as “The Hill”, which is not the best part of town.  Drainage in the area is bad, and anything resembling a heavy rain floods the streets. It’ll be worthwhile to have work done on 9th street.

But here in Neptune Beach, we apparently didn’t have any “shovel ready” projects that qualify. There was an article recently in The Beaches Leader in which Neptune Beach Mayor Harriet Pruette said there was too much money in Neptune Beach for us to be in line for any stimulus, but goodness knows Florida Boulevard could use some drainage work, and to be widened with a turn lane, and maybe a couple of lights.  But apparently even with a 5 percent reduction in property values which will affect the tax base, we’re too wealthy.

It doesn’t seem that way at our house.

We’re here kind of in the hole of the donut. Most of the money would likely trickle down anyway. I don’t know that there are construction companies here in Neptune Beach that could get a contract to work on a road. But all those people have to eat somewhere, and we do have some nice restaurants, and they might need something from K-Mart or the drugstore. Still, the improvements would have been nice.

I don’t begrudge Jacksonville Beach or Mayport their stimulus projects. I drive on 9th street and I sometimes use the ferry, so I’ll get something out of it, as will most everybody at the beach. But I can understand Mayor Pruette’s frustration.


I’m out for Oshkosh on Saturday, 8 days steeped in airplanes. I’ll try to keep up something resembling the blog, but can’t make any promises. It’s going to be an incredibly busy week, but I’ll let you know all about it when I get back.

With pictures.



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Filed under Beach Living, Federal Stimulus, Mayport, Neptune Beach, Thoughts

Dancin’ in the Streets

While Jacksonville Beach has a string of festivals and events throughout the summer, there is only one in Neptune and Atlantic Beach.  Dancin’ in the Streets has been going on all day, with bands on two stages at opposite ends of Town Center.

Dancin Crowd The streets were packed, the beer and margaritas were flowing, the bands were loud … you’re typical street festival.  It’s kind of like a smaller version of the Shrimp Festival up in Amelia Island, without the pirates.  There were many of the same art and craft vendors, some of the same food, though some of it was more local to our part of the beach.  Every policeman from Neptune and Atlantic Beach I think was at the event, and at every entrance, and on many t-shirts, was the legend “Be Nice or Stay Home”.

That’s been a bit of a problem at the beach of late.  There was an article in the Shorelines this morning pointing out some of the problems that have already cropped up at the beach early in the season.  Lot’s of fights, and an uptick in crime.  There were some problems down in Jax Beach last weekend, with a couple of Saturday Night Fights breaking out during after-prom revelry.  Fortunately, that hasn’t moved north to our little beach town just yet, and if we’re lucky, maybe it won’t.

But if you’re not drinking, or have a ton of friends hanging out at Dancin in the Streets, there’s not a lot of reason to just hang with 20 or 30 thousand of your closest buds.  I kind of gave up on that big group debauchery a long time ago.  The closest I’ve come recently was a couple of beers at the Fletcher All-Class reunion last weekend.  And I’ve never been very good with elbow-to-elbow crowds.  I know a lot of people thrive on it, and that’s cool, but it’s just not me.

Still, it was good to go.  I rode my bike up, and there were bikes chained to trees and street signs for 5 or 6 blocks before getting to the party.  I’m sure Town Center will look a little hung over tomorrow, and the local constables will likely be rousting the last of the drunks off the streets and back to their homes.  OK, I made that last part up, but it really wouldn’t surprise me.  I’m glad most of these bat-brain crazy things happen down in Jacksonville Beach, and we only really give up one Saturday a summer to the madness.

Summer’s here.  Life’s a Beach …



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Filed under Beach Living, Street Festivals, Thoughts

December at the Beach

It was seriously a Chamber of Commerce day in Neptune Beach today.  And though there were more people than usual on the beach today, just because it’s the week between Christmas and New Years … it was literally a picture-perfect day to be down by the ocean.

White Head It was about 75 degrees, the sky was clear, the ocean is cold, but not unbearable.  Jenni said “not too bad after your feet get numb”.  It wasn’t even that bad, really.  Cool, but not unpleasant.  There were plenty of surfers and kayakers in the water, a few hardy swimmers, mostly under 10 years old an obviously from out of town, women in bikinis who have no business wearing them lying on the sand (also obviously from out of town) and lots and lots of shorebirds.

Flock o Seagulls

I shot the birds.  No reason to take pictures of women who probably don’t want them taken … and it’s probably poor form for a middle-aged man to take photographs of other peoples’ kids at the beach.

I saw a mixed flock of a half dozen different kinds of birds lounging just above the waterline.  Everything from tiny sand pipers to full sized gulls all enjoying the afternoon sun.  They let us get fairly close, and I managed to get some interesting perspective shots into the crowd.  But the best part came when one decided to bug out, and the rest of the bunch followed suit.  I managed to capture a nice image of the mass departure.  They didn’t go far … they never do.  Just far enough to feel safe from the people around them, and then settling back into the shallow water of the outgoing tide.

Jenni Beach Of course, we had a reason to go to the beach today.  Not that we needed a reason to go.  But Jenni seems to have contracted a nasty case of athletes’ foot from a pair of shoes she brought down here.  Her story is that she got the fungus from a pair of socks she borrowed, and wore in the shoes she brought.  She’d fought down the infection earlier, but when she wore the shoes with no socks earlier this week, the fungus hit her again.

Regardless, salt water is just about the best thing for what ever ails you.  It heals cuts and scrapes, clears sinuses, and I figured that a walk in the water would be good for her feet.  It wasn’t as therapeutic as I’d hoped, but a half hour in the sunshine and ozone from the breaking waves was worth the short drive to the beach.  That, and spending time with my daughter.  That’s always worth the effort.

As usual, all today’s photos are up on Flickr.


Speaking of making an effort, I got back on the bike this morning for a nice 18.5 mile ride.  My legs and butt were both complaining pretty loudly, but I managed to finish it.  The weathers’ supposed to turn cold again the next couple of days, with a chilly wind out of the northeast, so I’m glad I got a ride in this morning.  We’re going to have to work hard to get some weight off this year, and the bike and the elliptical machine will be a big part of that.  It’s time to really get serious about those tight 40″ waist pants.  That’s just not acceptable.

Wish me luck.


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Filed under Beach Living, Bicycle, Birds, Florida, Photography, Photos, Thoughts

Local Government at its Most Local

I went to a couple of events tonight, both of which were good in the job search arena.  A Beaches Chamber of Commerce council mixer and then the special meeting of the Neptune Beach City Council … where Harriet Pruett, Kara Wade Tucker, and Eric Pardee were sworn in on the Council.

It was at the council meeting that I started thinking about the most local of local governments.  I covered a lot of Jacksonville City Council meetings when I first went to work at WJCT.  I mean a lot.  Every other Tuesday, I’d plan to spend most of the night at city hall, and the rest of it at the station writing a story for our morning magazine show.  The 19 member Jacksonville City Council can be unwieldy at times.  And sometimes the meetings could drag on, and on, and on, and on …

Tonight, the new and newly re-elected members of the Neptune Beach City Council were sworn in, and there were only three little items of business on the agenda.  At the JCC, there could be zoning discussions that could do on for what seemed like hours … and that was never the interesting part of the meeting I wanted for the show.  The agenda could run 15-20 pages, with supplemental and “emergency” items, plus public comments.  Meetings could be marathons.  They still are.

Tonight’s Neptune Beach City Council meeting had the swearing’s-in, and three bills on the agenda.  Three.  One was on first reading.

Doggy Dining passed on third reading.  Only one person spoke to the council in favor of Doggy Dining, and none against.  I almost went up and spoke against, simply to make it fair, and because I’m not really sure I’m all about having dogs underfoot at a restaurant, even outdoors.  But I hadn’t given the issue any thought, don’t feel that strongly about it, and didn’t want to seem like a dog-hater … so I let it go.  It passed unanimously.

The other bill, which was a technical correction on an existing bill, also passed unanimously.  The third was a first reading dealing with education funding.

That was it.  Half an hour, including the swearings-in.  30 minutes.  Local government at its most local.

Now, when the debate was whether WalMart should be allowed to come to town, it was a very different story.  The anti-WalMart crowd packed the tiny meeting room, and were very vocal about not letting them come into Neptune Beach.  Never mind that the zoning allowed it and they would have been paying taxes on a now-vacant strip shopping center.  Never mind they tried to be good neighbors and conform to the local architecture (such as it is) and followed all the rules.  People heard “WalMart” and were up in arms.  I still don’t understand how that happens.  WalMart won, of course, and then decided not to build it anyway.  As the arguing went on, the economy soured, and they decided it wasn’t going to be as profitable as they had originally thought.  So, the shopping center remains empty.

But now that I can, I should go to more local city council meetings.  Maybe volunteer for a board and get more locally involved.  I actually enjoy watching the sausage being made, and ever have ever since Illona Nickols talked about the federal legislature during C-SPAN orientation.  It was the civics class everyone slept through in high school made interesting in an afternoon … and now I enjoy the process.

So that was that.  I had the camera in the car and didn’t take it into the council chamber.  I should have.  But so many people don’t realize that it’s at the local city council meetings … particularly if you live in a town like Neptune Beach, where decisions are made that really effect your everyday life.   The President and federal congress pass and sign laws that sometimes seem so esoteric … but when you realize that it takes “an act of congress” at the local level to allow you to take your dog to the outdoor seating area of a restaurant … that’s where the rubber meets the road.  And it’s why everyone should pay far more attention to who their local representatives are.

It’s that important.


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Filed under City Council, Civics, Local Government, Neptune Beach, Thoughts

Fay, Fay, Go Away

Well, Jacksonville hasn’t had a direct hit from a hurricane since 1964.  Our luck my have run out with Fay.

Fay819 This is a particularly cool graphic from the National Weather Service  … one of the satellite composite loops with a bunch of other layers you can add and subtract.  Here you can see the average track based on the models … which would bring it onshore right about 30 degrees north latitude, pretty much St. Augustine.  Hurricane watches are posted up into SE Georgia.  But the upshot is that we may finally have our first landfalling hurricane on the First Coast in over 40 years.

Of course, that continues to change.  I’ll post and update after the 11:00 pm forecast from the national Hurricane Center goes up.

So, I’ve gotten the shutters down from the attic of the garage.  I’m not sure yet if I’m going to put them up, but it won’t take more than an hour should we decide to make that happen.  I’m really glad now that we bought these.  I don’t have to worry about wrestling big sheets of plywood or razor-sharp metal shutters.  These are the flexible Kevlar based panels that will go up over the windows with a bunch of wing nuts.  The anchors are already in the window frames, which are Hardy Board.  I really don’t think it would take more than about an hour to have the house completely shuttered.

Meanwhile, I skipped the wine tasting at PF Chang’s with JB this evening to come home and start getting the place secured.  I’ve gotten all the chairs in onto the back porch, as well as most everything else that can blow around.  We’re going to get some wind, no matter what.  It may be 74+ miles per hour, it may be no more than 20-25.

That’s the thing about these storms.  In the 8 years I’ve lived here, there have been several times that a big storm has been forecast, and all we’ve gotten is an hcane inch or two of rain.  But there have also been times that wind gusts have knocked down several of our fence panels.  Of course, the last bit thunderstorm we had that knocked down a couple of ship loading cranes over at Blount Island blew down a couple of panels, too.  It’s just difficult to say what’s going to happen.

But, I’ve got a couple of flats of water, gas in the car, stuff moved inside, shutter panels ready to go on, canned soup and other non-perishable food, charcoal, a camp stove, candles, batteries, oil lamps … I think we’ll be ok if the power goes out for a while.


Fay819_11P Update:  11:24 PM

Here’s the 11 PM update for Fay.  It’s got her making a shaper turn after heading briefly out to sea.  The storm was weakening a bit, winds down to 50 miles per hour from a high of 65.  Hurricane force is 74, just in case you haven’t been paying attention.

So now, we still have a hurricane, but coming in further south.  Probably somewhere around Flagler Beach, which could be a disaster down there.  A1A is literally on the dune down there, and portions of it wash out with a good n’oreaster.  I expect if there are hurricane force winds down there, it could wash out chunks of the road.  Not to mention that it puts some houses very close to falling into the ocean in the strong northeast quadrant of the storm … with a WNW approach like this, the straight line winds will be coming almost directly onshore.  That will be bad news for South Ponte Vedra Beach.  We’ll see what happens.

It’s good news for us up here in Neptune Beach, however.  Still a hurricane watch, for us.  We’ll see what the update is when we get up in the morning.  For now, it looks like the shutters may not be necessary … but that could always change.


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Filed under Beach Living, Hurricane, Neptune Beach, Thoughts, Weather

Summer Storm

Nature provided the fireworks last night.

Lightning 1 med

About 11:00, a summer storm started to threaten.  I’d run to the drugstore to get Jenni some contact lens solution, as she’d managed to get to Florida without it.  They say you go on vacation to forget things, and when you get there, you find you usually have.

In any event, I’d been out on the porch talking to Scott Abrams about his new improv project, of which I hope to be a part, and I kept noticing flickers of light outside.  Our streetlights often work intermittently, and I just thought it was the light out on Florida Boulevard trying to come on.  But when I got in the ragtop, top down, of course, to go to the drugstore, I noticed the electrical discharges racing across the sky.  The storm was still several miles away, which I confirmed looking at the radar online when I got home, so I decided to try the same technique on the thunderstorm as I had Friday night on the fireworks at the beach.  I got lucky.

Lightning 2 med

Set up on the tripod, in full manual mode and with my remote shutter release, I waited.  I shot the first one at f5 at about a 1/2 second shutter speed and ISO 400.  The second, I stopped down to f8 but increased the exposure to 2 1/2 seconds.  Both were shot with a 28mm lens in manual focus mode.  I love the metadata the camera puts on the captures.  I was out in the driveway for about 30 minutes to get these two images, and about a dozen completely black ones.

I got this camera, in part, to get shots like these.  Please go look at the full size images on Flickr.

So today is Sunday, and we’ll be meeting Ann Hopkins for lunch.  She was Provost at Miami of Ohio before coming to UNF, and Jenni will be attending Miami in the fall, so I really wanted an opportunity to get them together.  Tonight is dinner with Busy, Tim, and Lucas. Tomorrow is a down day before the fun starts Tuesday.  In the business, we call that a teaser.  More later.


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Filed under Beach Living, Living, Neptune Beach, Photography, Photos, Thunderstorms, Weather