Action News Jax Investigates hurricane damage at city parks years after the storms

City says FEMA is to blame for delay in park renovations

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — An Action News Jax investigation uncovered nearly a dozen Jacksonville city parks still have damage from the hurricanes.

Action News Jax reporter Brittney Donovan started investigating after a Jacksonville mom posted a photo of a boardwalk at Arlington Lions Club Park, asking when it would be fixed.

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She said she moved to the area a week before Hurricane Irma and has never been able to take her grandkids for a walk because of the damage.

At nearby Blue Cypress Park a sign tells families the boardwalk there is also closed.

Debbie Mathis came to fish with her son.

“I was hoping we could get out here and enjoy ourselves,” she said.

Hurricane Matthew hit in October 2016 and Irma in September 2017. The city says the combined cost of damages was $24.5 million.

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“It’s been three years,” Bruce Nipper said. “There’s no excuse in it dragging on this long.”

Bruce Nipper’s family has run Trout River Fish Company next to the Trout River Pier for nearly 60 years.

Chunks of concrete are missing from the floating dock at the pier, a popular stop for fishing boats. Nipper says the damage is keeping customers away.

“I believe it could be a two-day job,” he said. “A Band-Aid patch could fix this thing and we could be up and going."

The city says the holdup is with FEMA. A spokesperson says every level of each project must be thoroughly documented and verified by FEMA and the state.

Work at Arlington Lions Club and Blue Cypress parks has already started. It’s expected to be done by the end of the year.

The city hasn’t yet started taking bids for the Jacksonville Beach pier. Several other projects will go well into 2020, leaving families cut off from the parks.

“They deserve to have this back,” Nipper said.

Action News Jax obtained this list of projects from the city:

Hurricane Matthew work to be completed:
  • Jacksonville Beach Pier: Bids to be opened Aug. 14, 2019
  • Northbank Riverwalk Floating Docks: In the design and Federal Permitting process
  • County Road Dock Pier: Construction began July 18 with work expected to be complete by the end of 2019/early 2020
  • Trout River Dock: Construction bids to be opened Aug. 14, 2019
  • Jim King Boardwalk: Project has been awarded, contract is being executed
  • Arlington Lion's Club Park boardwalk and fishing pier: Construction began July 18, project expected to be complete by the end of 2019
Hurricane Irma work to be completed:
  • Joe Carlucci Park: Work was completed in July as Action News Jax was working on this story
  • Blue Cypress Park Boardwalk: Construction began July 18 with work expected to be complete by the end of 2019
  • Metropolitan Park Wooden Dock: In design phase
  • Memorial Park: Design of handrails underway, project expected to be complete by Spring 2020
  • Wheat Road Park: Concession stand was a total loss because of a fire caused by the hurricane.  Demolition of the old concession stand is complete; planning/design of the new facility is underway.

Full statement from the City of Jacksonville: 

"The delays are related in part to the FEMA process which is a very lengthy and complex.  Every level of each project must be thoroughly documented and verified by both FEMA and the State of Florida’s Emergency Management.  FEMA must first approve and verify damage descriptions which includes precise dimensions, inspection, design, environmental requirements, and procurement.  Once completed, the City can then begin repairs."

Our parks have been repaired from most of the hurricane-related damage.

The remaining projects are waterway-related, such as docks and boardwalks. Almost all of our parks sustained some level of damage.

For Hurricane Irma, the current damage estimate for parks and recreational facilities is estimated at $6.4 million, and for Hurricane Matthew, these damages are estimated at $18.1 million.

These numbers factor in both work completed and work to be completed."