As Spring finally hits North Florida, clean up work on Huguenot Beach can start, to be ready in time for season and turtles arrive.
Exactly the day after Spring started, parts of Huguenot Beach closed for a massive clean up lasting until May 1. The popular beach and park on Heckscher Drive is partly closed while work crews can remove Navy scrap metal from the popular Jacksonville park’s shoreline.
The work affects the entry point on the beach south toward the jetty rocks and has to contractually be completed by May 1, according to city spokeswoman, Renee Brust.
Last year part of the shoreline was closed because of visitors being cut by debris ranging from metal pipes to flatware and cigarette lighters. A lot of the debris, that also included forks and pocketknives, dog tags and shell casings, apparently came from Mayport Naval Station, but how it got there is a mystery. Dating the flatware and lighters established the timeline of the pollution that began turning up last year in the surf at Huguenot, located on the opposite bank of the St. Johns River from the base.
Paying for the $80,000 in clean up cost required a little financial creativity as a deal finalized this year by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection allowed the city to pay for most of the work with money it owed the state for an unrelated fine, while the Navy agreed to contribute $20,000 toward the cleanup.
To find the metal scraps, the contractor needs to pump sand through a sifting system, then stockpile it and replace it along the beach. The cleanup agreement says work has to be finished by May 1 to avoid affecting federally protected sea turtles that build nests along the shoreline each spring and summer.
Flags have been posted along the beach to mark the work area and Park Management also points out that the affected are is also the main “pet-friendly” area of the park. Pet owners may continue to come into the park with their pets as long as they adhere to current guidelines, which allow pets only at the St. Johns River shore. If the area becomes too congested or if guidelines are not followed, visitors with pets will be asked to leave and will not receive a refund.
Effective Saturday, May 1, day-use visitors will not be allowed to bring pets into the park. This is not related to the clean-up activities but represents a change in park policy.