Visioning session looks to future

Kile Brewer
Posted 3/7/18

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Residents recently got a chance to look into the future and ponder what kind of city they want to live in in the years ahead.

City Council held a Community Visioning …

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Visioning session looks to future


GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Residents recently got a chance to look into the future and ponder what kind of city they want to live in in the years ahead.

City Council held a Community Visioning Workshop March 3 – the first official event of its type since 2012 – to allow residents to share their vision for the city of Green Cove Springs and where they see it going by the year 2025.

The council brought in government expert Marilyn Crotty from the University of Central Florida to lead the discussions, something Crotty does across the state as the director of UCF’s Florida Institute of Government. Crotty explained to the group – about 80 people split into a handful of tables – that the discussion would consist of two main parts. First, participants would come up with what they consider to be the city’s current treasures and values, the things they like about Green Cove, and things that they want to see staying the same. The next step is where citizens began looking to the future of the city and presented ideas for things that they would like to see added to, or changed within, their city.

“Not all cities let citizens participate in these things,” Crotty said. “Today is all about you, it’s your chance to share your ideas, thoughts and feelings about this community.”

Members of the city council were present at the meeting, and available for background information and other minor things, but they were not allowed to participate in the discussions or offer their personal thoughts and opinions. They were only present to observe and receive the input of their community. They will eventually receive a report back with a summary of all the ideas presented during the visioning session and use that report during their upcoming budget meetings later in the year to decide where residents want their money spent.

During the first part of the discussion, there was significant overlap between tables. Residents of Green Cove, ranging from those who have lived in the city for 25 or more years down to those who had been there about a month, were all drawn to move to or stay in Green Cove Springs for the same basic reasons.

Things the crowd valued about their community included: river access, brick streets, the “small town feel,” city-sponsored events, their position as county seat, their status as a Tree City USA, the Historical Triangle, Spring Park, an accessible government and police department, and small businesses like Spring Park Coffee.

“When you live in a city that has all these assets, it’s something we take for granted,” Crotty said after hearing the community speak fondly about their home city.

The discussion moved to the recent growth, and expected growth as the First Coast Expressway moves toward the city. The city currently sits at around 7,600 residents, but is expected to be around 15,500 by 2025. Those present were not necessarily against seeing their city grow, but they want to see sensible growth where development doesn’t take over the downtown area or the parts of the city that make it feel like a small town.

As the discussion moved on, the groups began deciding what they want to see in their city’s future. While the first part saw many of the same answers from table to table, the visioning portion of the discussion resulted in many unique ideas that, when assembled into a list, painted a clear picture for the council on what residents see as Green Cove Springs 2025.

Some of the more common ideas included: becoming a legal golf cart community to cut down on vehicle traffic, maintaining the small town feel but enhancing it with modern amenities as the population increases, developing the new part of the city with chain stores near the port and maintaining the old city as it currently stands, canoe and kayak launches in Spring Park, improving the city’s online presence and offering citywide wireless internet through their utility service, restaurants that stay open for dinner, moving power lines underground, and building a riverfront boardwalk.

Some groups came up with ideas that were even more big picture, like the group led by Assistant City Manager Mike Null.

Null’s group suggested closing Walnut Street to vehicular traffic and maintaining the brick street as a boardwalk through downtown shops and restaurants. As part of this walkable downtown district, Null’s group called for a definition of what the city wants to be known as their “historic downtown,” and preserving that area once it is defined.

The group also suggested adding more parking as the city grows through the development of vertical garages. Another group led by former Green Cove Springs mayor Bob Page proposed that the county should consider creating a Green Cove Springs Master Plan like those seen for the Oakleaf area and Lake Asbury, other “city centers” the Beltway will pass through. With County Commissioner Mike Cella and County Manager Stephanie Kopelousos among the participants, the idea should make its way back to the Board of County Commissioners.

“I was struck by the involvement, you were not only talking but also listening to each other,” Crotty said while closing out the meeting. Though she had never been to Green Cove Springs before, Crotty said she was already considering moving there.

Once the city has received the report from the session, they will present the findings to the public at a city council meeting before moving forward with any of the proposed projects. Ideas favored by the council could be placed in the city’s list of planned capital projects and considered during this year’s budgeting session.


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