By Celise Blackman and Caitlin Kitchens
The American Red Cross Volunteer Life Saving Corps has been rescuing lives and educating thousands on water safety in Jacksonville since 1912. The Corps is rich in history, some of which may come as a surprise, even to some locals.
The Corps was created in 1912 after tragedy struck the First Coast. Mary Proctor, a prominent nurse in Jacksonville went for a swim with her sister and a friend. The three were swept into a runout, unfortunately Mary did not survive. The death of Mary led to an urgency for change. Clarence McDonald and Lyman Haskell decided to take action, leading them to create the first volunteer lifeguard corps in the country. In the beginning the guards would volunteer to work on Saturdays, Sundays and major holidays. They would also help assist the Coast Guard with shipwrecks
In 1914 the station was chartered by the American Red Cross. The station began to expand and change the ways in which they assisted and tools they used. During this time George W. Wilson realized there was a need for assistance in the water. He created the first ever water buoy. This buoy was created to better assistance the lifeguards when going out to rescues. The pointed ends helped push through the breaks and the buoy could hold up to five people. Which was way more efficient that going out man to man for rescues.
The Jacksonville Beach Lifeguard Station was built in 1947 and is still being operated in today, withstanding, hurricanes, fires, and multiple changes. Throughout these changes the station has still kept its same traditions and values. The biggest, being the watchdog of the beaches.
The station assist in multiple types of rescues. Averaging in approximately 60 to 70 rescues a year. Their most common rescues are helping weak swimmers who are in need of assistance. A common fear when entering the ocean is sharks. Max, an officer at the station told us there are a lot of sharks in the water. Despite their prevalent existence in the Jax waters there’s only an average of 1 to 2 shark bites a year.
Not only does the station offer their assistance in patrolling the beaches they also offer numerous safety courses. “We do offer CPR and first aid classes at a charge but they are an extremely recommended classes for anyone to have,” Max, Jacksonville Beach Lifeguard Officer. Another perk is if you’re having a private function and would like a lifeguard at your event the Jax Beach Lifeguard Station has lifeguards for hire.
While enjoying your time on the beach make sure you’re constantly staying aware of your surroundings and the lifeguard signals and flags. For more information on the station or if you are wanting to inquire about any of the stations course they offer you can visit their website.
By Lauren Ericksen and Julie Petrosky
Kickback’s Gastropub is a unique historical restaurant that has 180 beers on tap and countless choices for food to satisfy anyone living on the coast. Having been the cornerstone of King Street in historic Riverside/Avondale since 2005, Kickback’s works to serve locals on an unlikely schedule. Open from 7 AM to 3AM they are constantly working on changing their menu and incorporating new beers to better accommodate the people of Jacksonville.
Owner, Steve Flores, explains, “We try to use local ingredients when possible and we definitely make sure that all the local breweries are represented.”
With beers from breweries such as Intuition, Aardwolf, Pinglehead and Greenroom Kickback’s aims to help out any local institutions. But local breweries are not as far as they go, Flores brought in many local artist to create their one-of-a-kind atmosphere.
“Basically we wanted to focus on local artists and local artisans so when we built the new dining room we um brought in several of our friends that are artists to uh basically to fill the room up with art. and so Jim Smith who is a teacher over at Bolles, he’s the art teacher he spent three years making sculptures um for the dining room he’s made over 1000 sculptures for us,” said Flores.
Where Kickback’s stands a 100-year-old house once stood. Flores wanted to use every bit and piece of the house they could and incorporate it into the look of the restaurant. From tearing out the floors to reuse the wood in different pats of the bar to using the five original windows as artwork he managed to create an alluring experience that is unforgettable to customers.
Ryan Sutton, a bar patron said, “The brick is amazing if you take a look around here it has a great setup, the paintings around here, the bathroom setup. It feels very comforting; it feels very homey.”
Visiting the River City
By Jordan Bebout and Brenda Zelaya
Many people think of Jacksonville as a business hub, but our city is actually an ideal vacation destination.
Booming businesses, outdoor activities, and a rich cultural history make Jacksonville an ideal tourist town. You might think people visiting Jacksonville just slow down traffic and crowd the beach, but tourism is actually a 2.5 BILLION dollar industry that fuels our local economy.
The beach is a huge pull factor for visitors, as well as our proximity to St. Augustine and Savannah. Patty Jimenez from the Visit Jacksonville tourism center explains why people from all over the nation visit our city.
“A lot of people come here to go surfing and learn how to surf because of the way our beaches are,” said Jimenez. “We have gentle waves but we have big waves, so that gives an opportunity for beginners or for a relaxed surfing session.”
For one millennial traveler from the land-locked state of Idaho, Jax offers work and play.
Nikki Ward is in town for her job, but she’s also staying a few extra days for some vacation time. “I had a meeting over here by the beach, and you know when you’re this close you have to go take a peek at the ocean.”
She took pictures from the boardwalk leading to the shore for her friends and family back home.
According to a 2015 economic impact report, tourism creates and sustains more than 30,400 jobs in the food & beverage, retail, and recreation sectors. This means that 1 in every 20 Duval County jobs are a result of tourism.
Jacksonville offers a unique mix of indoor and outdoor activities, making it a premier vacation spot. So whether you want to see an athletic event, go paddleboarding, or peruse an art museum, the River City is the place to be.
By Joy Kader, Ryan Hennessey and Alexandra Torres-Perez
Bryan Thornton is a professor at the University of North Florida. Emilia Grace Hitchner is a journalist at the St. Augustine Recorder, and Ryan McFarland is a college student. What do these three people all have in common? Their love of the surf life.
Growing up in Hawaii, Bryan’s life has always revolved around surfing. However, he didn’t realize how important it was to him until he moved to Kansas for a job and couldn’t surf. He became desperate for the ocean, and decided to move to Jacksonville to be close to the waves again. He now goes to Hanna Park every morning despite of the weather.
Emilia can’t go surfing every day like Bryan due to her busy schedule, but that doesn’t stop her from surfing several times a week. She taught herself how to surf, and then decided that she wanted to teach others. Now, she instructs people of all ages at the Jax Surf and Paddle on Neptune Beach.
“It gives you a chance to really just enjoy nature and to take a break from how busy life is,” Emilia said. “It’s a way to step away from the craziness of life and really just find your Zen moment.”
Ryan also goes out to the beach several times a week. He wakes up early at 5:30 to get to the beach before sunrise. Due to weak waves here in Jacksonville, Ryan prefers to skim board rather than surf. Skim boarding is very similar to surfing, except he runs out to the waves and glides over the water closer to shore. Ryan has won several skimming competitions, and continues to compete as a professional skimmer today.
“What draws me towards skim boarding more than surfing is that I catch more waves when I skim than I do surfing, and there’s usually less crowds when you skim,” Ryan said.
Bryan, Emilia and Ryan all plan to continue surfing or skimming until their bodies are unable to do so anymore.
“Once you do it, you become addicted to it,” Bryan said. “The thrill, the excitement, the fun. When you think about it, you’re walking on water.”
The Jacksonville Port
By Karrah Johnson and Will Weber
Jacksonville is know for being the biggest city in the country, but what some people don’t now is that on the First Coast importing and exporting goods is pretty important as well. At the Jacksonville Port, over 8 million tons of cargo were handled last year alone.
The port is a staple of Jacksonville and a key to its economy – so important that Barack Obama paid a visit in 2013 and Donald Trump mentioned it by name in a recent campaign rally. It contributed an estimated 27 billion dollars to the regional economy each year and supports over 130,000 jobs.
At a prime location within minutes of both 195 and I10, the port has the strategic advantage of being able to distribute goods nearly anywhere in southeast America.
“We can reach 60 thousand consumers in the southeast United States within a one days truck drive,” Jacksonville Port Liason Nancy Rubin said.
It is the nation’s top vehicle handling port in America, and is the number one U.S. port handling trade with Puerto Rico, and Logistics Management Magazine recently named Jax Port the easiest port to do business with in the southern USA. This is a reputation which allows it to do business with 17 of the top 20 global ocean carriers.
The port is massive, constantly moving, and a hub for trade across the south, but competition from rivals in Georgia has forced JaxPort to make some massive changes.
There is one problem hurting Jaxport’s efficiency. It’s the depth. Right now JaxPort’s depth doesn’t allow fully-loaded ships to come into the harbor. This is the reason the port is set to break ground on a nearly 700-million dollar project to dredge the harbor floor, lowering the depth from 40-47 feet.
Port authorities estimate the deepening project could add millions of dollars in Asian exports to the Jacksonville economy and thousands of jobs.
“That ship would like to bring more cargo, it would like to leave with more cargo, but yes it can’t currently because the depth of our harbor,” Rubin said.
For every dollar invested into harbor deepening project, officials believe more than 24 dollars will be returned to the state of Florida. Although there are many people that support the project, not everyone is optimistic about the economic or environmental impact of a deeper port.
UNF Sociology Professor David Jaffee is one of the most vocal critics of the dredging project. Jaffee says the port’s assumption that a deeper harbor will lead to more cargo isn’t the slam-dunk many make it out to be.
“From my perspective it will be a monumental waste of taxpayer dollars,” Jaffee said.
Right now, ports in Savannah and Charleston handle approximately 80 percent of the regions far East exports. And with a 5-billion dollar deep-water terminal headed for the Savannah River, critics question if the investment will make JaxPort the first-in, last-out port of the southeast.
“So you’ve got all these east coast ports competing for uh pretty much the same cargo,” Jaffee said. “If Jacksonville get to 47 feet they will be no deeper than Savannah, they will be no deeper than Charleston, and therefore there will be no net competitive advantage.”
The proposal to dredge has been a goal for years, but securing funding has left its future in doubt. Brian Taylor resigned without warning this March, leaving the port searching for a leader as it prepares to break ground this year.
It’s a massive investment, which could lead to an even bigger payoff. But for Jacksonville Citizens, only time will tell.
By: Doug Markowitz & Kayla Davis
Acro-yoga is a unique mixture of partner acrobatics, Thai massage and yoga. It allows for those that do it to build trust not only with themselves as they stretch their bodies to achieve new positions, but also with their partner as they form close bonds with each other.
“I love the community, it’s great,” says Anne Steel, who has been doing acro-yoga for two years. “What appealed to me in the beginning was just being able to do moves I did when I was younger – gymnastics moves – and I could do them on another person.”
Acro-yoga appeal doesn’t just appeal to those that have a background in gymnastics and acrobatics. It also finds favor with those looking to increase their body’s physical capabilities in a group setting.
“It brings a lot of what I like about physical culture and takes it out of my individualistic headspace,” says Jack Carter, who has been doing acro-yoga for three years. “Like I’m working on everything I can do, and then all of a sudden brings a partner involved, possibly a trio.”
Carter still sees the sport as a fun and ever-changing adventure.
“It’s a lot of mastering yourself and your fears and being able to control your body and space, but then all the elements of interpersonal relationships and trust layered on top of that,” he says.
Beginners in acro-yoga may see the activity as scary or hard to master. But both Carter and Steel agree that practice is key.
“There’s a lot of people I’ve done acro with that, when we first started, we couldn’t do the harder moves,” says Steel, “and we’ve evolved into being able to do some of the standing acrobatics together.”
Carter believes that acro-yoga not only keeps one in decent shape, but also allows for additional flexibility and limberness. And according to 52-year-old Steel, the benefits may exceed even beyond that.
“I’m probably one of the oldest people that does acro,” she says. “I think it’s acro that keeps me young.”
When it comes to practicing on the beach, both Carter and Steel sometimes find the sand tricky to work on. But ultimately, the perks make the challenge worth it.
“It’s beautiful out here, you know?” says Carter. “This is why I live here. The weather, the beach, the proximity to the ocean, the sea breezes…”
Not only is the beautiful weather a perk of doing acro-yoga on the beach, but it’s also an easy way to get the word out about the discipline and get even more people interested.
“Beaches really draw people outside,” says Carter, “so we get to do what we do, enjoy the ocean, enjoy the weather, enjoy nature, and we also get to show off a little bit. People passing by might experience a little bit of what we do vicariously through us and decide when they get home ‘I can do that.’”
Invasive Species in Jacksonville
By: Al Huffman and Serena Summerfield
When people in Jacksonville use the St. Johns River for boating, commercial trading or fishing, people often take for granted how fragile the ecosystem can be. Whether it’s caused by people or not, one of the problems that people should always be on the lookout for are invasive species.
It doesn’t have to be an unknown creature to become invasive. Director of the Marine Science Program at Jacksonville University Dr. Dan McCarthy said even common aquarium fish can be a problem.
“So anytime somebody [a species of fish/plants] new comes in, we go, ‘Hmmm.. Are you going to be a problem?’” McCarthy said. “One of them in particular, plecos, are algae eaters.”
He said the problem is that people who buy the fish sometimes get tired of them and need to get rid of them. These fish owners think they are being nice by flushing them when they should be euthanizing them.
After being flushed into the river, plecos often grow to large sizes. Since they’re armor plated they don’t have natural predators to keep them in check. Also, Pleco fish can destroy riverbanks they burrow into.
However, not all issues are caused by animals; some are plants.
In the late 1800s, an invasive plant called the Water Hyacinth completely clogged up the St. Johns River. Bureau Chief of the St Johns River Water Management District Steve Miller Chemical described the damage the plant is capable of.
“So I want you to imagine going out on your boat and launching in into the St. Johns river and not being able to move because there’s a raft of vegetation in front of you that you literally can’t get through,” Miller said.
Miller said chemical treatments and careful observation have helped keep the issue from reoccurring, but encourages anyone who sees Water Hyacinth floating on the river to remove it.
For more information on invasive species and how to help control them, contact the St. Johns Water Management District.