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City Council Approves Jacksonville Emerald Trail Master Plan

The groundwork has been approved by the Jacksonville City Council to create and connect 30 miles of trails in the urban core.

The Emerald Necklace has just been an idea for more than a century but our News4Jax partner reports the City Council has now adopted a plan to build the Emerald Trail within the next 10 years.

The resolution was approved March 26 to implement the master plan as part of Jacksonville's revitalization efforts at an estimated cost of $31 million for design and construction, not including land acquisition.

Groundwork Jacksonville has an agreement with the city to manage the design and permitting of the project and has committed to raising at least 50 percent of the design and permitting cost from private donors, grants and foundations. “The Groundwork Trust was established in Jacksonville to realize the Emerald Necklace and to build the public-private partnerships to make it possible,” says Kay Ehas, CEO of Groundwork Jacksonville. “We are proud to take this first giant step toward achieving that goal.”

According to Ehas, the next step will be to design and build the Model Project, a portion of the trail that will be highly utilized and will offer the community a tangible example of what the finished Emerald Trail can be. The 1.3-mile Model Project will connect the south end of the existing S-Line Rail Trail to the intersection of Park and Stonewall streets near the Convention Center. The goal is to have the project completed in 2020.

There are many advantages to this connection, including multiple access points for the LaVilla and Brooklyn neighborhoods, the opportunity to connect to the McCoys Creek Greenway in the future and the fact that no land acquisition is needed. The total cost for this first trail segment is projected to be $3.6 million. Groundwork is currently raising 

$900,000, or 25 percent of the Model Project cost. For the balance of the funding, legislation will soon be introduced to move funds into the 2018-2019 Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) budget for design. Construction funds will be requested from City Council as part of the 2019-2020 CIP.

“As we look ahead at creating a vibrant and bustling downtown, I am pleased to have the City partner with Groundwork Jacksonville to increase pedestrian and bicycle access to our natural spaces,” said Mayor Lenny Curry. “Connecting communities and celebrating our neighborhoods is what the Emerald Trail project is all about. We are a city on the rise and this important project will be a big part of changing the landscape of our downtown as we move forward.”

When complete, the Emerald Trail will encompass 19.7 miles of new trails connecting at least 14 historic neighborhoods and downtown to existing and/or planned trail segments including the S-Line Rail Trail, Hogans Creek, McCoys Creek, the Northbank and Southbank riverwalks and the FDOTs Riverside connection to San Marco, for a total of 30 miles of trails and linear parks.

“The Emerald Trail will not only create unprecedented recreational opportunities in the urban core, it is a transformative transportation and economic redevelopment project,” said Ehas. Groundwork sees Jacksonville’s neighbor to the north as an example of the impact this project could have. “If you look at the Atlanta BeltLine, the direct economic impact is almost $4 billion thus far. We believe the Emerald Trail will deliver significant economic benefits to Jacksonville, as well,” Ehas added.

Groundwork Jacksonville developed the Emerald Trail Master Plan in collaboration with the PATH Foundation—the organization responsible for building more than 280 miles of trails in Georgia—and KAIZEN Collaborative, one of the Southeast’s leading trail planning and design firms. 

Advocates believe the Emerald Trail will be a catalyst for social and economic opportunity in Jacksonville, from encouraging healthy lifestyles and promoting public safety, to spurring neighborhood revitalization and economic development. The trail will link to 18 schools, two colleges and 28 parks among other destinations like restaurants, retail and businesses, with an additional 20 schools and 21 parks located within three blocks of the trail. 

“Everyone involved in revitalizing Jacksonville is looking for ways to create a more livable, walkable, recreational downtown to attract residents, visitors and business expansion to the urban core,” said Councilwoman Lori Boyer, District 5, a champion of downtown renewal and riverfront activation. “The Emerald Trail will help to accomplish this while also improving mobility and economic opportunity for those who currently live in the historic urban neighborhoods along the proposed trail.” 

Emerald Trail Master Plan Tier 1

Tier 1 includes 6.8 miles of new trail at a cost of approximately $13.59 million: 

  • Segment 1 - Model Project: South end of S-Line on State Street to the intersection of Park and Stonewall streets.
  • Segment 2 - Hogan Street Connector: Hogans Creek at 1st Street to the Northbank Riverwalk at the Landing.
  • Segment 3 - Southwest Neighborhood Connector: Artist Walk under I-95 to the south end of the McCoys Creek Greenway on Edison Avenue.
  • Segment 4 - S-Line Connector: Boulevard Street to East 21st Street.
    Segment 5 - Hogans Creek Greenway: S-line near 12th Street to Hogans Creek Greenway at North Laura Street.

Emerald Trail Master Plan Tier 2

Tier 2 includes 14.1 miles of new trail at a projected cost of $17.44 million: 

  • Segment 6 - Westside Connector: McCoys Creek Boulevard at Leland Street to Florida C. Dwight Memorial Playground.
  • Segment 7 - Northwest Connector: McQuade Street north of the active S-Line to Moncrief Road.
  • Segment 8 - Eastside Connector: North Liberty Street just south of East 13th Street to Hogans Creek Greenway south of the Arlington Expressway. 
  • Segment 9 - Hogans Creek to Riverwalk: Hogans Creek Greenway at Laura Street to Northbank Riverwalk at Newnan Street.

Programmed trail segments are the proposed trail connections that have existing funding allocated for implementation. McCoys Creek Greenway, Artist Walk to Fuller Warren Bridge and the San Marco Connector are programmed segments that the Emerald Trail will connect to as part of the Master Plan.
Click here to read more about the overall plan.