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Remediation Of Hogan's Creek Among Goals Of New Jax Nonprofit

A Jacksonville nonprofit set to start operations by the end of this summer has their sights set on the environmental remediation of Hogan's Creek.The creek, which runs through the city's Springfield neighborhood before exiting into the St. Johns River near the former Shipyards property, has been the focus of many past environmental efforts.

"There's a lot of contamination here," said Jacksonville attorney and conservationist Christina Parrish on a walk through Confederate Park earlier this month.

Credit Google Maps
A map of Hogan's Creek (highlighted) winding through Jacksonville's Springfield neighborhood on it's way to the St. Johns River.

In 2010 the park was considered for designation as a Superfund site due to the presence of coal tar in the ground left behind from a 19th century coal gasification plant. Parrish said the majority of the pollution in the creek is from fecal coliform matter from ducks, old sewage systems, and other sources.

The pollution is evident, not only in the trash that can be seen as the creek winds past the Maxwell House Coffee factory, but also in the signs posted outside access points that warn residents not to eat fish caught there.

"In the 1960's, the city actually took some action to kind of block this neighborhood off and forget about it," Parrish said of Springfield.

A Springfield resident herself, Parrish cited the re-routing of State and Union Streets into one-way avenues as an action with detrimental consequences to the area, calling the neighborhood the city's "step-child."

"They stopped maintaining, and they actually did some things that caused the problems here," she said, describing the dumping of trash by in the lakes in the parks along the creek, which include what are now Confederate Park and Henry J. Klutho Park, beginning as late as the 1940's.

Parrish is chair of the steering committee for Groundwork Jacksonville, a new nonprofit that is on pace to begin operating in the city by September.

Credit Patrick Donges / WJCT
A sign posted outside Confederate Park warning against eating polluted fish caught in Hogan's Creek.

A community meeting is scheduled tonight from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Jacksonville Children's Commission to discuss the organization's goals, one of which is the remediation of Hogan's Creek.

"There's certainly a lot of work to be done in the Springfield and Eastside neighborhoods," said Alyssa Bourgoyne, project coordinator for Groundwork Jacksonville.

The non-profit, an arm of national group Groundwork USA, will be focused on environmental education and neighborhood maintenance, with remediation of the creek and the parks along it's banks likely a 10-15 year project.

Bourgoyne said that the group will likely help secure funding for cleaning the creek, but that they will rely on the city to take a primary role in that process.

"If you motivate a community enough, we think that puts political pressure in the right places," she said, when asked whether the organization would undertake lobbying efforts if the political will to fund remediation of the creek is lacking.

The Groundwork Jacksonville steering committee includes representatives from Mayor Alvin Brown's office as well as the city's parks and recreation, and public works departments.

The group will also work to restore the original architectural features of the creek-side parks.

"We really hope that one day that those signs can come down," Bourgoyne said of the fish warnings.

You can follow Patrick Donges on Twitter @patrickhdonges.

Patrick Donges served as WJCT's Digital Content Editor from August 2013 - August 2014.