St. Johns River Park is located on the Southbank waterfront between the Main Street and Acosta bridges and is home to the iconic Friendship Fountain. When the park opened in 1965, the Fountain of Friendship (named at the suggestion of a Rotary Club member because one of the Club’s cardinal principles is friendship) was the world’s largest and tallest fountain, capable of spraying 17,000 gallons of water a minute to a height of 120 feet. Accentuated by colored lights at night, it soon became a popular tourist destination and local recreation site. Currently, both the Museum of Science and History and a popular restaurant with its own marina occupy portions of the original park property. The park provides a wonderful view of downtown Jacksonville and access to the Southbank Riverwalk that opened in 1985. In addition, the Jacksonville Maritime Museum is located on the Riverwalk, adjacent to the northeast corner of the park.
Through careful curation, a more vibrant year-round public space will take shape over the next two years.
Built around the theme of exploring the St. Johns River, the park will include an extraordinary themed playground dubbed Ribault’s Landing and featuring a ship play structure mimicking the “Trinite”, a splash pad with spraying reeds and alligators, and a concession stand and restroom modeled after a Timucuan lodge. On the opposite side of the fountain, a lush, colorful and shady botanical garden will highlight Bartram’s Travels through the area and his early records of the diverse Florida flora providing a waterfront respite for those who wish to stroll the pathways or enjoy the spectacular views of Downtown from one of several seating areas. The park will include an upgraded natural picnic area for groups visiting the adjacent Museum of Science and History (MOSH) and complements plans for expansion of the museum.
The park’s centerpiece, Friendship Fountain, will remain the focal point dramatically representing both the massive flow of the river and its’ ever-changing moods and patterns. The three existing rings of jets will remain, but the addition of new accent jets, lighting, and speakers will allow for production of spectacular water shows. The Downtown Investment Authority is further enhancing the experience through production of a fountain projection show and facilitating coordinated programming of the fountain, projection on the façade of the Performing Arts Center across the river, and lighting on the Acosta Bridge. Slated for spring 2021 completion, the fountain shows will entertain residents and visitors nightly.