Here in Jacksonville, they just finished renovating the Southbank Riverwalk on the St. John’s River. It’s really a nice project — as you’d hope at a cost of $17 million — a pleasant promenade for pedestrians and bicyclists with fine views of the Landing, all the pretty bridges, and of course that crown jewel of downtown, the Jacksonville jail.
One thing you don’t see on the Southbank Riverwalk is a lot of parking lots. This fact has confounded some people. Surely, they reason, a venue meant for walking should have drive-up access? If you can’t park adjacent to it, why then does it exist?
Good question. The few times I’ve strolled the new Riverwalk, I found a spot downtown and hiked across the Main Street Bridge. Since the whole point of a river walk would seem to be the walking part of it, it didn’t seem too torturous to add half a mile to the outing. Crossing the Main Street Bridge to Friendship Fountain is a scenic stroll in its own right, if a bit noisy from the traffic. It’s actually part of the Riverwalk, connecting the two banks of the St. John’s.
So, no: I don’t think a parking garage on the South Bank, or another acre of asphalt, is a great idea. Some things just take a little extra effort. You’d probably probably walk farther in a trip to St. John’s Town Center, where they have hectares of free parking but people still cruise for hours in an effort to minimize steps.
So much talk about improving Jacksonville, and so little action. At least the Southbank project got done, and it’s really pretty cool. It’s a thing for people who don’t mind walking. To those who do mind, I’d say (just like a querulous old man): tough luck.