Big Changes Coming To Island Under Mathews Bridge

March 12, 2017

After decades of neglect, the island underneath the Mathews Bridge will once again be properly welcoming visitors to this unique city park when docks and amenities are built by the summer of 2017.

Beginning in 2014, the City of Jacksonville put the wheels in motion to finally return Exchange Club Island into a unique public park. Earlier this year, those plans became reality as two barges have descended upon the island and are actively making improvements to the Arlington River and to Exchange Club Island itself.

Dredging of the Arlington River is currently underway to clear channels for boaters that have been filled in by mud and silt over the years.

A 60-foot floating dock and 105-foot metal gangway are being constructed on the island along with a 235-foot long and 6-foot wide sidewalk that will lead to two 12x12 ft pavilions. A kayak launch point will also be added adjacent to the floating dock. These upgrades are crucial to the park’s success as the island can only be accessed by private, noncommercial, recreational watercraft.

Source: City of Jacksonville

In 2015, a youth volunteer team from Groundwork Jacksonville cleared and marked a primitive nature trail on the island. The following summer, several picnic tables were constructed and installed along the trail as part of an Eagle Scout project. In the future, that nature trail will be extended northward across the entire island and meet up with an elevated lookout point on the wayward side of the island. Two campsites near a lagoon hidden within the island will also be included in future improvements.

Source: City of Jacksonville

The improvements being made to resurrect the public park are costing around $350,000, with half of the funds being paid for by grants by the Florida Inland Navigation District and the other half matched by the City. In addition to these funds, several civic groups have already volunteered hundreds of hours towards cleaning up the island and have pledged future time towards maintaining the park’s new facilities.

Work on the first phase of the project is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2017, and the park will be re-opened to the public in an as-yet scheduled dedication ceremony. After decades of promise, a unique opportunity to enjoy a secluded island destination open to the public offering breathtaking views of the downtown skyline, is finally within reach.

NEXT: A tour of Exchange Club Island

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