After years of planning and construction, part of the Daytona Beach Riverfront Esplanade opened at 8:00 am on Saturday, June 4, 2022. The Riverfront Esplanade lies to the east of Beach Street between Main Street to the north and International Speedway Boulevard (ISB) to the south. The two-block section south from ISB to Orange Avenue is still under construction with a scheduled opening at the end of 2022.
I didn’t know it was open when I set out on a morning walk up Beach Street. Looking over to the park, I noticed the orange fencing had been removed and the teal-colored gates were open. I entered the park at the entrance next to the News-Journal Center and headed north to see the Halifax River Overlook, a raised platform with swings and views across the river.
I left the overlook and continued north behind the News-Journal Center.
Past the News-Journal Center, the path (with blue cushioned running trail) ran parallel to Beach Street past Bethune Plaza and the Brown & Brown Insurance building.
This view is across the South Lawn towards Manatee Island.
Soon I arrived at the Manatee Plaza where staff were handing out postcard announcements, park maps, water bottles, and bandanas. The plaza contains restrooms and is the gateway to Manatee Island.
Although I have lived in downtown Daytona Beach for more than nine years, I had never visited Manatee Island. I now crossed the bridge and turned right, quickly arriving at the Amphitheater. This was not new, but it had been refurbished and had fresh grass laid down.
I continued walking counterclockwise around the island with views across the Halifax River to several bridges.
The island had lots of palm trees, open grassy areas, several pavilions, and more restrooms.
I circled the island, then crossed the bridge back to the main park and turned right to continue north for a little bit. After passing under an orange inflatable arch, I decided to turn around and head back home.
I retraced my route back south on the (main) Sweetheart Trail along the South Lawn.
I passed again behind the News-Journal Center with a view towards the Halifax River Overlook.
I passed the path where I had entered the park and continued south.
I reached the south entrance at the corner of Beach Street and ISB and exited the park after finishing an hour’s walk. Below is the free gear I got.
The next day, Sunday, June 5, I rode my bike through the Riverfront Esplanade to have a second look and to visit the areas I hadn’t seen the day before. I entered at the south entrance and rode along the main path, around the Overlook, past the News-Journal Center, and looped Manatee Island. At the Manatee Plaza I rode north along the North Lawn to the end I skipped the day before.
When I reached the Josie Rogers’ House, I turned left and rode out to the entrance on Beach Street for some photos of the house.
The sign reads:
DR. JOSIE ROGERS’ HOUSE
Dr. Josie Rogers was born in Daytona Beach on November 26, 1876 – the same year the city was incorporated. In 1879, her father built this house, where she grew up. She became the first female Mayor of Daytona Beach in 1922, only 2 years after passage of woman’s right to vote. She was the first female physician in Daytona Beach and her office was open to both white and black patients. She served as Chairman of the State Health Department and Chief of Staff for the Halifax District Hospital. Her father, Durham Rogers, was instrumental with the incorporation of the Town of Daytona. He was the Town’s first surveyor, built the first ice plant and first bridge across the Halifax River (Main Street Bridge).
Not noted on the sign: This house is not in its original location, it had been moved years ago from the spot where Manatee Plaza now sits.
I continued around the house north to Brownie’s Dog Park.
The Dog Park, which includes an agility course, was not open. Dog owners must sign up for a dog park membership to use it.
I now reached the north entrance to the park.
From here I re-entered the park and followed the (main) Sweetheart Trail all the way back to the south entrance.
I left the park, and turned right to ride north on Beach Street along the west perimeter of the park. At Main Street is located the main sign for the Riverfront Esplanade (see first photo, above). I continued north along the riverfront to extend my ride. On the way home, I stopped by Veteran’s Plaza for one last photo.
I have been skeptical about how many new people the new Riverfront Esplanade will attract to patronize the riverfront shops of Daytona Beach. But as a downtown resident, I am pleased to have a beautiful new park in which to walk and ride my bike. I look forward to the opening of the southern section in a few months. Watch for Part 2.