Memorandum of Understanding Brings JTA into Emerald Trail Partnership

Memorandum of Understanding Brings JTA into Emerald Trail Partnership
JTA Immediate Past Chair Ari Jolly, JTA CEO Nathaniel P. Ford, Sr., Groundwork Jacksonville CEO Kay Ehas, Mayor Donna Deegan, District 7 City Councilmember Jimmy Peluso.

A new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), executed between the City of Jacksonville, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) and Groundwork Jacksonville is bringing the Emerald Trail one step closer to completion.

The MOU was announced at a press conference in front of The Cummer Museum of Arts and Gardens on Thursday, Oct. 26. In attendance were Mayor Donna Deegan, District 7 City Councilmember Jimmy Peluso, JTA CEO Nathaniel P. Ford, Sr. and Groundwork Jacksonville CEO Kay Ehas.

“We as a city need to make sure we are remaining competitive with other peer cities,” said Peluso. “We need to make sure we are doing things different than other places while also making sure we are doing things in the best interests of our residents. The Emerald Trail is that project.”

The MOU details a collaboration between Groundwork Jacksonville and the JTA for the Emerald Trail’s five remaining segments: Segment 3 (the southwest connector), Segment 4 (the S-line connector), Segment 6 (the westside connector), Segment 7 (the northwest connector) and Segment 8 (the eastside connector). While Groundwork Jacksonville will oversee community engagement, planning and design of these segments, the JTA will be responsible for approving the final design and then overseeing the construction side of things.

“We at JTA take pride in providing holistic transportation solutions and, you may have heard me say, the better our community moves, the greater it will become,” said Ford. “So this pedestrian, bicycle-friendly trail will help us with that connectivity. It’s not just about the concrete, the asphalt of the project. It’s about moving people and creating a greater quality of life.”

These five segments will be funded, in part, by $132 million from the local option gas tax.

Currently, 40% of the Emerald Trail is either in design or under construction with its first link – the LaVilla Link, connecting Brooklyn to LaVilla and the S-Line Rail Link – expected to open this January.

Once completed, the 30-mile trail will connect 21 parks, 16 schools, 14 urban neighborhoods, three hospitals, two colleges and the JTA Regional Transportation Center.

Ehas said some of the most important voices to be heard in “planning, designing, activating and maintaining this trail and the park system” are those of the residents who live in the neighborhoods the trail will connect.

“Historically, they have had no say in what happens to their neighborhoods,” she said. “That’s not right. Groundwork Jacksonville believes neighborhood organizations and residents should lead neighborhood revitalization efforts and we are committed to working with them to build their capacity to do so.”

In her address, Deegan expanded on the impact a completed Emerald Trail will have on the newly linked communities and Jacksonville as a whole.

“The Emerald Trail will be an incredible catalyst for social and economic opportunity in Jacksonville,” she said. “From encouraging healthy lifestyles, as I said, and promoting public safety, to spurring neighborhood revitalization and economic development.”

The Emerald Trail Master Plan was first announced in 2019. Stakeholders broke ground on the first link in LaVilla in 2021.

By Michele Leivas
Resident Community News

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