Project Spotlight: St. Johns River Ferry Improvements

Written by: Rachel Washington

The St. Johns River Ferry is located along the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Florida, and is operated by the Jacksonville Transit Authority (JTA). The ferry is both a car and passenger ferry that connects the north and south ends of Florida State Road, linking Mayport Village and Ft. George Island. The trip between the two slips is just shy of a mile, taking less than five minutes, and has a new departure every 30 minutes.

The trip from Mayport Village and Ft. George Island has been taken for centuries from Spanish missionaries in the 1600s to post-Civil War usage by travelers, tradesman, and farmers. In the 1950s, the ferry was opened to the public and has long since been a favorite of the locals. JTA assumed operation of the ferry in 2016 and has been working to enhance the experience for its passengers.

MDG joined PQH Group to provide services for the federally funded project for landside and waterside infrastructure improvements to the St. Johns River Ferry. Our team provided landscape architectural services for the improvements. In addition to designing the landscape and irrigation, MDG also provided tree mitigation plans to show compliance for removing existing trees. The designs had to meet both the JTA requirements and the City of Jacksonville (COJ) code requirements. During the design process, our team was responsible for updating plans as changes were necessary to the roads, walkways, and ponds.

Key Facts About the Project

  1. Eric Lanehart, PLA, ISA, was the project manager. Learn more about him here.
  2. MDG was a subconsultant to PQH Group.
  3. Project completed in 2022.
  4. Scope of work included landscape design, irrigation design, and tree mitigation.

This project was unique in that it was essentially two projects in one. While there were both under the same project for JTA and required the same services, they were two different sites that required two different set of plans and mitigation.

The landscape plans included the landscape design, tree mitigation calculations, and plant schedule and details. At the start of the project, JTA provided 60% design plans which our team used as the base and continued the plans to 100% design. MDG provided irrigation design which included complete head layout, valves, piping, sleeving, controllers, specifications, construction details, and watering schedule for all landscape material included in the enhanced landscape design for both Mayport Village and Ft. George Island terminals.

The tree mitigation required that any trees that needed to be removed be replaced at a 1:1 ratio. This meant that trees had to be replaced inch for inch and palm for palm.

Download the Project Profile Sheet


Our team worked hard to be available to the prime, PQH Group, throughout the project. There were a few times our landscape architects needed to quickly focus on their tasks and produce plans sooner than they were due because of roadway and pedestrian design changes. However, because of the willingness of our team, we were able to meet the deadlines and the project was completed on time.

It was an honor to work on this project and alongside PQH Group. This project provided our firm with the opportunity to take part in improving an iconic destination in Jacksonville. As users of the infrastructure, it was great to take part in making a better user experience, and to refresh the look of this historic ferry. It was especially meaningful to our Landscape Architecture Director, Eric Lanehart, PLA, ISA, as his primary office, as well as his home, are in Jacksonville.

“I was born and raised in Jacksonville Beach, and I have been over the ferry at least 100 times in my life. So, it was an honor to be able to help make this unique river crossing experience more enjoyable to users by improving the landscaping in and around the parking and queuing areas.” – Eric Lanehart, PLA, ISA

Our Experience

MDG provides this on projects ranging from large-scale master plans and housing communities to small-scale green streets,
recreational facilities and parks, parking lots, and private yards. Additionally, our Landscape Architects have led projects which included streetscapes for minor and major highways, enhanced landscape and irrigation design, hardscape design, tree evaluation and mitigation plans, children’s play space area design, landscape revitalization, municipal, industrial, commercial and multifamily residential projects, recreation planning and design, and community parks. Our team is also FDOT pre-qualified in 15 – Landscape Architect work group.

St. Johns River Ferry

The ferry is available seven days a week from both the Mayport Village and Ft. George Island slips. It departs every half hour.

Click here to learn more about the ferry.

In need of our landscape architecture services for your project? We would be happy to partner with you!

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