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Runners, walkers, cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts rejoice! Soon Jacksonville will have a 30-mile urban trail for all to enjoy.
Construction began last year on the Emerald Trail which will connect 14 urban neighborhoods, 16 schools and 21 parks to Downtown Jacksonville and the St. Johns River. It is a huge project by the City of Jacksonville in partnership with nonprofit Groundwork Jacksonville that will have far-reaching social, economic and environmental benefits for the community.
The project includes the restoration of Hogans Creek and McCoys Creek, two urban waterways along the trail. Both are heavily polluted and frequently flood nearby streets and buildings. The plans call for a more natural channel design to reduce flooding, improve water quality, create habitat for fish and wildlife and provide access for kayaking and other recreation. McCoys Creek is under construction and the preliminary Hogans Creek restoration design began late last year.
The hope is that, like other signature trails around the country, the Emerald Trail will be a destination to enjoy art, shopping, local cuisine, music, festivals, outdoor recreation and all the things that reflect a city’s character and contribute to the quality of life.
The first segment of trail currently under construction is the LaVilla Link, named for the neighborhood once referred to as the “Harlem of the South” due to its vibrant nightlife and entertainment scene. This 1.3-mile trail segment will connect the Brooklyn neighborhood to the existing S-Line Rail Trail and is expected to open early 2023.
The S-Line is a 4.8-mile rails-to-trails multi-use path that was an abandoned length of CSX railroad Right-of-Way that the city took position over a decade ago. An unfinished section of the S-Line will be completed, along with other improvements, as part of the Emerald Trail project.
Large warehouses stand where the LaVilla Link and S-line connect, with one dating back to the late 1800s. A private developer plans to adapt the structures into art and entertainment space.
The Sugar Hill Mosaic is located along the S-Line under the I-95 overpass just west of N. Davis Street. Groundwork Jacksonville commissioned local artists, Kate and Kenny Rouh of RouxArts, to create the 96-feet-long mosaic. It was inspired by community residents and honors Sugar Hill, once an affluent African American neighborhood until I-95 bisected it in the 1960s.
Along the S-Line between Moncrief Road and Boulevard is known as the Biodiversity Corridor where you can see a large bioswale, a community herb garden and flower garden, bee hotels and pollinator plants. Work along this portion has been completed by Groundwork’s Green Team youth apprentices as well as community volunteers.