Walkers along the Historic Jungle Trail will soon start seeing heavy equipment and contractors at the Jones’ Pier Conservation Area, but “there’s no reason for concern about the future of the historic Jones House, the heavy equipment on site is a sign of progress” said Beth Powell, Parks & Recreation Director and Acting General Services Director.
The house which dates back to the 1920’s was inundated with more than a foot of water during 2016’s Hurricane Matthew. To prevent future flooding issues the house is being elevated and placed on 8-foot concrete piers, work that is partially funded through a Hazard Mitigation Grant.
“This has been a roller coaster journey,” said Wendy Swindell, Indian River County’s Conservation Lands Manager. In the spring of 2022, the County put the elevation work out for bid and did not get any response. “It was very disheartening and a little frustrating as County staff had done so much work to write grants, fund, and complete the necessary design and permitting work,” said Swindell. “A second bid attempt was also unsuccessful, with no bidders responding which is likely attributable to the boom in building and the unique, and possibly difficult, nature of the work elevating the structure,” added Swindell.
The 1920’s “frame vernacular” house is listed on the National Register as a contributing structure associated with the Historic Jungle Trail. This local unpaved road is one of the few roadways listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and provides a unique experience for residents and visitors to walk along the Indian River Lagoon in the same location as early 20th Century pioneers on the barrier island.
Staff worked closely with the Florida Division of Historical Resources, Florida Department of Emergency Management, the local Indian River County Historical Society, and the County’s local historian, Ruth Stanbridge, to ensure that the elevation of the structure and repurposing into an interpretive center would not change the aesthetics of the old Florida charm infused home.
“County staff’s persistence and dedication is to be commended,” said Michael Zito, Interim County Administrator. Staff worked through many obstacles and was successful in obtaining a commitment and pricing through the County’s job order contracting under the Sourcewell Cooperative.
The Board of County Commissioners approved the construction contract with Johnson-Laux Construction, LLC, on November 8, 2022. The long-awaited improvements necessary to open the Florida Cracker-style, century-old Jones House on Jungle Trail are finally underway. “It is projects like these that make public service so rewarding,” said Commission Chair, Joseph Earman.
The approved work is on schedule for completion in early April with the site opening to the public soon thereafter. The renovation and repurposing of the home into an interpretive center, funded in part by Florida Inland Navigation District and the Florida Division of Historical Resources, will be initiated upon completion of the elevation. It is anticipated that the interpretive center will be opened to the public in 2024.