ORANGE PARK – Clay County handed a deed over to a 10-acre parcel in Orange Park so the town could transform it into a natural park with public access to St. Johns River.
The Board of County Commissioners entered into a Joint Participation Agreement with the St. Johns River Management District regarding the funding and title for the acquisition of a 10-acre Nelson Point parcel on Doctors Lake located within Orange Park’s town limits. The funding of this purchase came from the Florida Land Acquisition Trust Fund and as such, the use of the land is limited.
“(The FLA trust fund) limits the use of the property for conservation and passive recreation uses,” official documentation reads.
The BCC handed over the deed to the property to Orange Park at their Dec. 10 regular meeting and entered into an Assignment of Joint Participation Agreement. The transfer of property includes the transfer of all obligations for management and maintenance, which means that the upkeep of the property is in the hands of the city.
Upkeep and maintenance, as well as construction, come with costs and Orange Park will have to front those costs. Town Vice Mayor Alan Watt said he believes grants could help cover those costs.
“Obviously there will be an expense to go with it, but this is why we have a grant writer,” Watt said. “There are grants available so we can go and do the kind of things that need to be done – a fence comes to mind – and stuff like that, but this plugs a huge hole in our comprehensive plan that our citizens have wanted and that the town has wanted and needed which is town property on the river.”
“I think this is a big deal and a wonderful opportunity for the town. We know we’re getting $2 million worth of land given to us. All we have to do is maintain it and protect it.”
Because of how the land was originally purchased, citizens don’t need to worry about a new obstructive structure being built or a business building taking the spot. Mayor Connie Thomas said citizens should expect a pathway for walkers, river access and some other natural amenities.
There aren’t any official plans in place yet for the land, but town council has expressed their interest in making it a park or conservation area where people can gather and enjoy the river. There is not a single public point of access into the St. Johns River within Orange Park so citizens and the council alike hope this can become a first for the town.