A local environmental trust has been awarded a more than $350,000 grant to help clean up and restore McCoys Creek.
Groundwork Jacksonville (GWJax) announced Thursday that it has been awarded $357,280 through the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service’s Community-based Restoration Program.
GWJax is a nonprofit specifically made to clean and redevelop Jacksonville’s Emerald Trail and convert contaminated land into parks, playgrounds, trails and other public greenspace.
The funds from the new grant will be used to finish the design of Phase 2 of the McCoys Creek restoration plan, which includes daylighting the creek under the Morris Publishing Group property, which used to house The Florida Times-Union, and replacing the existing ditch with about 4,000 feet of open, soft-bottom channel and living shoreline. Currently there is a ground level parking deck on top of the mouth of the creek.
“It's called day lighting, but it's basically to take off the stuff that's on top of the creek and expose the creek as it should be,” explained Kay Ehas, GWJax CEO. “The idea is to, as much as possible, have it be a natural meandering creek. On the Morris property, it will be bulk headed. But we're hoping it'll be wider than it is right now. It'll be open, so it'll be a creek that you can actually see and enjoy.”
Once work is done the stretch of restored creek running from the mouth of the St. Johns River to Myrtle St. is expected to increase water flow and improve natural habitats for fish, plants and other wildlife.
“Through our strategic investments in habitat restoration, we support a multitude of benefits for both ecosystems and communities,” said Pat Montanio, director of the NOAA Fisheries Office of Habitat Conservation. “Projects like Groundwork Jacksonville’s work restoring McCoys Creek not only support valuable fish species, they also boost local community resilience and economies through protection from flooding, improved water quality and increased recreational opportunities.”
The grant will supplement money that the City has already earmarked for the project.
“My administration values our partnership with Groundwork Jacksonville as we work together to restore McCoys Creek to a beautiful natural resource and recreational amenity for our citizens,” said Mayor Lenny Curry. “Groundwork’s success in securing highly coveted national grants such as this supports the city’s goal of developing innovative, resilient solutions that will protect our quality of life for generations to come.”
The City has budgeted $60 million over the next three years to fund creek restoration, trail construction and park improvements.
“Groundwork is honored to bring this very competitive federal grant home to Jacksonville for the McCoys Creek restoration project,” said Ehas. “This is our second significant grant for McCoys Creek within the last nine months, further validating our natural channel design approach to creek restoration, flood prevention, habitat renewal and water quality improvement.”
In November GWJax was awarded a $250,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and NOAA through the National Coastal Resilience Fund for creek restoration design at the north and south branches of McCoys Creek between the Beaver and Edison St. bridges.
GWJax is now trying to raise another $450,000 to complete the branches design, which will include trails and recreational amenities.
As part of the new NOAA grant, GWJax will work with Jacksonville University on a fish study and with Jacksonville’s Environmental Quality Division on water quality sampling.
“Our hope is to prove the effectiveness of stream restoration in improving water quality as a best practice for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection,” said Ehas.
Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solutions, Inc., and SCAPE and CDM Smith Inc., are partnering to develop the McCoys Creek restoration design for GWJax and the City. When all is said and done the project will impact about 2.8 miles of creek and 142 acres of the surrounding land.