Almost 60 years ago the local Exchange Club tried to make the uninhabited island under the Mathews Bridge a nice park for the citizens of Jacksonville, who promptly began tearing it up, setting it on fire and shooting at it.
Picnic tables, restrooms, a little frame building — all gone. Soon the island reverted back to its even wilder state, occasionally visited by boaters, swimmers and generations of overnight campers and beer-drinkers.
The local service club, though, never forgot about the island under the bridge, which after several unofficial names (Mud, Rock, Rabbit and Rattlesnake island, for starters), was put on the maps as Exchange Club Island. Once or twice a year, members helped pick up out trash out there, and some dreamed of a day when it would once again be a proud park for Jacksonville.
That day’s getting closer, perhaps: The city and state paid for a floating dock at the south end, and there are plans to soon put a paved trail and a couple of shaded pavilions there, among other improvements. Read more.