Boaters vs. Rowers, the public could decide if bridge in Arlington gets a no-wake zone

·3 min read

Boaters may soon see restrictions at a popular spot on the Arlington River. I’m talking about under the Cesery Boulevard bridge in Arlington.

There’s a new push to add a “no-wake zone” where boaters and rowers have been arguing over this for quite some time.

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This eight-month long debate got even more heated during this summer’s Waterways Commission meeting. There were rumors circling this river that boaters were having a complete disregard for the safety of others by either speeding or boat racing between the Cesery and University bridge.

Tonight, there’s a public meeting so you can decide what will happen next.

“We’re asking the city to put up signage where on any other waterway, such as the Inland waterway, there already would be signage, 300 feet in either direction of these bridges advising people that they need to slow down,” says Davis Bales.

I spoke with Davis Bales who is the Program Director and Head Coach of First Coast Rowing Club. He was at this summer’s Waterways Commission meeting and says he’ll be at every city council meeting in Jacksonville advocating for a no-wake zone until there is one.

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“In your opinion, what would be a safe speed for boaters to go? 10 miles an hour, 15? What’s the speed limit in a school zone? Yet boats can come through here at 55, 65?” says Davis Bales.

Bales says people only realized how dangerous speeding on the water is until it’s too late. He knows this all too well after a good friend of his lost a sibling to a boating accident. He wants to help prevent that heartache from happening to anyone else.

I spoke to a few boaters on the dock who don’t feel that the area needs a no-wake zone because they say there haven’t been any accidents or deaths to prove otherwise. I reached out to JSO to confirm that and haven’t heard back.

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Sgt. Leonard Propper works with The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit.

He says in most waterways outside of no wake zones there isn’t a posted speed limit. Adding quote “There are no police boats sitting there to see if a boat is doing 50 or 100 miles an hour. A boater can go by a JSO boat 70 miles an hour in Pottsburg Creek and they haven’t broken the law. It’s legal.”

Sgt. Propper also noted that while JSO does it’s best to keep everyone on the water safe, he does not have enough manpower. JSO has 5 police boats for every 125 miles of water in addition to some military help when necessary.

There is an ordinance in play to help with these sorts of issues. However, that ordinance is over 10 years old, and it does not accommodate today’s boating traffic.

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“Were concerned with the speed that happens to pass through our dock through the Cesery bridge because it is a narrow span bridge with limited visibility and going through at breakneck speed is high risk,” says Davis Bales.

I spoke briefly on the phone with City Councilman Al Ferraro who’s sponsoring the proposed slow speed minimum wake zone bill. He told me tonight’s council member public meeting is giving the community the chance to vote on the no-wake zone bill specifically under the Cesery bridge.

If the community can’t vote on whether to implement a no-wake zone under the Cesery bridge by tonight, then it’ll be left up to the 19 city council members at a later date.

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