VERO BEACH — Walkers along the Historic Jungle Trail in Vero Beach will soon see heavy equipment and contractors at the Jones’ Pier Conservation Area.

“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 Parks & Recreation Director and Acting General Services Director Beth Powell.

The house that dates back to the 1920s was inundated with more than a foot of water during Hurricane Matthew in 2016. To prevent future flooding, the house is being elevated and placed on eight-foot concrete piers, work that is partially funded through a hazard mitigation grant.

“This has been a roller coaster journey,” said Indian River County Conservation Lands Manager Wendy Swindell. 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 Ms. 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.”

The 1920s “frame vernacular” house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places 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, 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.

County staff worked with the Florida Division of Historical Resources, Florida Department of Emergency Management, the Indian River County Historical Society, and county 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 home.

“County staff’s persistence and dedication is to be commended,” said Interim County Administrator Michael Zito.

County Commissioners approved the construction contract with Johnson-Laux Construction, LLC, on Nov. 8, 2022. The long-awaited improvements necessary to open the Florida Cracker-style, century-old Jones House are now underway.

“It is projects like these that make public service so rewarding,” said Commission Chair Joseph Earman.

The work is scheduled 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.

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