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Delaney still dreams of a central park


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John Delaney came out drawing.

He also did some swinging, venting and spinning. But first there was drawing.

Early in a nearly two-hour session with Times-Union staffers Tuesday, the president of University of North Florida took a reporter's notepad and scribbled something on it.

A smoking gun.

He held it up and continued his scathing review of TriLegacy's role in the $36.5 million Shipyards Project. He used words like "fraud," "misrepresentation" and "deception." He even dropped in a story loaded with the E-word. Enron.

"Is it to the level of criminal?" he said at one point. "I'm not saying that."

No, but before backpedaling, he walked up right up to the line.

This wasn't just Delaney defending the city, the JEDC, the Shipyards deal, the Better Jacksonville Plan and, of course, the courthouse.

It was Delaney defending Delaney.

It was a former mayor defending his legacy.

He didn't say as much. He didn't have to.

His point was that much went right during his eight years in office, that what has happened since then should not overshadow that.

Here's the thing: These twists won't overshadow his accomplishments. It might feel like that today. But in the long run, these headlines will fade.

And what will last?

I have a dream.

OK, to be fair, once upon a time, it was Delaney's dream. His vision for the Shipyards property.

"A central park," he said Tuesday.

As he recalled TriLegacy outbidding the city for the land, I began to daydream. I think the former mayor eventually went back to talking about smoking guns and grassy knolls and, for all I know, the shocking truth behind the Kennedy assassination.

I was stuck on the idea of a central park.

One of the arguments against it is that we can't afford to not have such prime land on the tax rolls. The same argument could have been made long ago for Central Park in New York, Balboa Park in San Diego, Forest Park in St. Louis, the parks along the Charles River in Boston, and on and on.

Those cities never gave in to temptation, because once you do once you let go of such prime real estate -- it's forever gone.

Or is it?

A funny thing happened on the way to the Shipyards ...

OK, maybe not that funny. But if TriLegacy's deal with LandMar falls through, if the land ends up in the hands of the city, let's hope that Mayor John Peyton considers taking another gamble. A different kind of gamble. One that gambles not on developers but on the downtown. One that fills the hole in his predecessor's parks program.

Delaney pointed Tuesday to the "pocket parks" of downtown. And while I'll grant that these postage-stamp parks did add something, I can't exactly see myself going for a run around one of them. ("Let's see. One mile equals 436 laps.") I'm picturing something bigger, a place where people meet, where they walk their dogs and throw Frisbees and bike and sit on park benches and watch the sun set.

Maybe not today, but one day.

In the long run, Delaney's legacy won't be the buildings that were built under his watch, or the roads that were paved with his plan.

His legacy will be the buildings that weren't built, the roads that weren't paved.

The greenspace. The parks system.

And maybe, just maybe, the Shipyards still could end up as the crowning jewel in that system.

mark.woodsjacksonville.com, (904) 359-4212

This story can be found on Jacksonville.com at http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stor..._17208087.shtml.

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I don't like that idea. It reminds me of Metro Park, which really didn't do anything for downtown. It just brings some people down there for concerts, but adds no urbanity. If they turn the Shipyards area into a grassy area, then you can forget about the Sports Complex being remotely connected with the rest of downtown. I like the idea of mix-use and marina space, like the Shipyards. Even though the Shipyards really bombed, I'd like to see something similar there.

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I agree. BTW, Jax does have a very large central park. Its called Confederate Park and its over a mile long, forming the southern and western boundaries of Springfield paralleling Hogan's Creek. Its been there for nearly 90 years and includes everything from sidewalks and baseball diamonds, to tennis courts and open space, as well as full grown trees.

Imo, the city should clean the entire thing up, before adding any more park space in the downtown area.

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OMG, it's so sad that I, (like many other Jacksonvillians, I'm sure) totally forgot about Confederate Park. I agree, they really should invest in that park, and get rid of the Homelesspalooza festival as well. Eventually, I'm sure we'll see some development near the park. Once the riverfront land is taken, they'll move to parkside.

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I wholeheartedly agree with the comments on Confederate Park. The city should have put about $10mm into the Better Jax Plan to clean up, green up, fix up, and augment that park. It is a diamond in the rough to be sure.

As for Mark Woods column, his desires don't necessarily conflict with the Shipyards plan. There would be plenty of space to walk, jog, rollerblade, if it is built as envisioned.

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I must agree with Lakelander about the Kluto Park to the west of Main,then over to Confederate Park east of Main.Hogans Creek borders both these parks an runs all the way to the St Johns right around Maxwell House/Shipyards.From my understanding,it accually was a navigable waterway a long time ago

and it could be a wonderful tie-in between Springfield and the St John's.A green space/walk-jog park on both sides of Hogan Creek,along with a dredging for the creek itself all the way to the river. :rofl: Sorry I was dreaming.The Corps of Engineers were already planning for the dredging but alas,those funds seem to dry up.

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Hopefully somthing can be done to fix up the creek. While walking to the game, on the Duval Street bridge, this past Sunday, I noticed that it looks (at least in that area) there's a lot of room for a nice sized linear park stretching from Confederate Park to the river. It also looks like with a little cleaning, a good portion of it could be navigable

Making that creek into a recreational attraction would instantly provide a shot in the arm take entire residential section of downtown, east of the Liberty Street.

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