Groundwork Jacksonville Breaks Ground On Emerald Trail

Groundwork Jacksonville Breaks Ground On Emerald Trail
Stakeholders engaged in the Emerald Trail project tossed dirt to celebrate the first phase of the trail getting underway.

Over 100 years ago, legendary architect Henry Klutho envisioned what he called an “Emerald Necklace” that would connect a series of trails, parks, creeks, and greenspace around Jacksonville’s urban core.

After years of planning, Groundwork Jacksonville has broken ground on the first phase of the Emerald Trail.

The LaVilla Link will connect Brooklyn to LaVilla and the S-Line Rail Link. Construction will begin in September and about a year to complete. The estimated construction cost is about $8.9 million.

The 14-feet-wide concrete pedestrian/ bike trail will include shade trees and native plants and flowers along the route.

The first phase of the path will stretch over the Park Street Bridge and head north along Lee Street, turn west at Church St and meander northward across Beaver St until reaching the S- Line Rail Trail at Wilcox and State streets.

When it is eventually completed the 30-mile Emerald Trail will connect 14 historic Jacksonville urban neighborhoods to downtown, the St, Johns River, and McCoys and Hogans Creeks. It’s hoped to be completed by 2029.

Emerald Trail System Map

Groundwork Jacksonville CEO Kay Ehas said the trail has been a collective vision of Jacksonville residents for over a century and one of the primary goals in establishing the Groundwork Trust. When she came on board in 2017, Groundwork didn’t have a plan in place. That led to the master plan for the Emerald Trail which has been approved by the City Council and has garnered financial support from the city and private donations.

Ehas said being able to connect historic neighborhoods is one of the most exciting parts of the trail. “People will be seeing neighborhoods that they’ve never seen before,” she said. “When you see black neighborhoods they look just like Riverside in terms of their housing stock.”

Ehas said the project would not have been possible without dedicated funding from the recently approved gas tax increase in Jacksonville.Of the billion dollars expected to be raised through the six-cent gas tax hike over the next 30 years, $132 million from tax has been earmarked for the Emerald Trail.

The next phase will be Hogan Street. It will run from Hogan’s Creek to the FSCJ campus. Ehas said they are currently working with landowners on the plan. That piece will cost about $7 million.

By Kevin J. Meerschaert
Resident Community News

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