Emerald Trail Model Project To Break Ground This Fall

  • by 904 Newsroom
  • June 18, 2020

Today, Groundwork Jacksonville unveiled the design of the Emerald Trail Model Project — the first segment of the Emerald Trail linking Brooklyn to the S-Line Rail Link through LaVilla. Construction of the project, named the “LaVilla Link,” will begin this fall and take a year to complete at an estimated construction cost of $3.9 million.

According to Kay Ehas, CEO of Groundwork Jacksonville, “Our guiding principles are to design a beautiful, low-maintenance amenity that connects and honors our historic neighborhoods, incorporates green infrastructure wherever possible, and creates a safe habitat for birds, bees, pedestrians and bicyclists.”

From Park and Stonewall streets in Brooklyn, the 1.3-mile LaVilla Link crosses over the Park Street Bridge and heads north along Lee Street. It then turns west at Church Street and meanders northward across Beaver Street until reaching the S-Line Rail Trail at Wilcox Street and State Street in the Railyard District. 

The 14-foot-wide concrete pedestrian/bicycle trail is designed for both active and passive recreation with abundant shade trees and native plantings. It features several signature points of interest like the Park Street Bridge and the Lee Street Pond, where users may pause and reflect. In addition, the Trail will honor the LaVilla neighborhood through wayfinding, storyboards and public art installations while connecting to the historic landmarks, Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park and Florida C. Dwight Memorial Playground (Park).

The 30-mile Emerald Trail is a public-private partnership between the City of Jacksonville and Groundwork that will connect 14 historic urban neighborhoods to downtown, the St. Johns River, McCoys Creek and Hogans Creek when completed by 2029. Design of the next two segments, Hogans Street and the S-Line Connector, will begin later this summer. 

“We are one step closer to creating an amenity unlike any other in our city,” said Mayor Lenny Curry. “The Emerald Trail will promote historic communities, physical activity and wellness, and Jacksonville’s natural beauty. I remain grateful for the leadership of the Groundwork Jacksonville team and the contributions of the donors.”

Pictured: Atlanta Beltline

Groundwork has raised nearly $1,000,000 for the Emerald Trail design from private donations. Major funders to date include VyStar Credit Union, the Delores Barr Weaver Fund, the David C. Miller Fund, Michael Ward and Jennifer Glock Foundation, The Law Firm of Pajcic & Pajcic, the Pajcic family and JTC Running. 

The LaVilla Link of the Emerald trail was designed by Pond, a full-service architecture, engineering, planning and construction firm based in Atlanta, Ga. with offices in Jacksonville, Fla. Pond has designed and implemented more than 400 miles of greenway and multi-use trail projects throughout the south including work on the Atlanta BeltLine. 

“Our goal with this project is to connect people to place,” said Daniel Ashworth, Jr., AICP, RLA, ASLA, Pond’s project manager. “The trail represents an emerald thread weaving together the gems that are our urban core neighborhoods. So, while the design is contemporary, it offers opportunities to celebrate the history and culture of Brooklyn and LaVilla.”

The LaVilla Link Model Project is part of the Emerald Trail Master Plan that was developed by Groundwork Jacksonville and was adopted by City Council on March 26, 2019. The master plan was created in collaboration with the PATH Foundation and KAIZEN Collaborative and was privately underwritten by a donation from JTC Running (JTC) as well as through grants from Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and the Giving Forward Community Endowment Fund at The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida. 

The Emerald Trail will link 16 schools, two colleges and 21 parks among other destinations like restaurants, retail and businesses, with an additional 13 schools and 17 parks located within three blocks of the trail. A catalyst for neighborhood revitalization, economic development, recreation, tourism, mobility, and improved community health, the Emerald Trail will transform Jacksonville’s urban core.

Emerald Trail Model Project (LaVilla Link) Points of Interest

Park Street at Stonewall Street

The southern end of the LaVilla Link connects Brooklyn to LaVilla. At this point the Emerald Trail converges with two other projects currently under design – the Park Street Road Diet and the McCoys Creek restoration and trail design.

The Emerald Trail takes over the existing elevated walkway to create a pedestrian path separated from runners and cyclists. The two northbound lanes are repurposed for active recreation and plantings including a bioswale to filter storm water runoff. The entrance will feature raised planters with native plants as well as a large Emerald Trail sign or art installation. A decorative pedestrian railing is added to the existing barrier wall for pedestrian safety.

Park Street Bridge 

At the crest of the bridge, lighted, sculptural steel shade structures and elevated seating areas encourage users to stop and enjoy the vistas of McCoys Creek and the railyards to the west, and the city skyline to the east. The existing barrier wall is replaced with a decorative railing with clear panels so that views are unobstructed. Story panels in between the shade structures will allow for art, wayfinding and storytelling. 

Park Street at Convention Center

At the base of the bridge, installation of shades trees, native plants and lighting will transform the entrance of the Prime F. Osborn Convention Center and showcase the stately beauty of the building and the existing fountain. Decorative crosswalks with bollards will prevent vehicle encroachment on the trail and improve user safety. 

Lee Street 

A road diet along Lee Street from Bay Street to Houston Street slows traffic and creates a tree-lined canopy along the Emerald Trail into LaVilla. Planters on the east side of trail provide separation from vehicle traffic and create a shaded walking area. The overhead Skyway Express provides an opportunity for a mural to reinforce the gateway into LaVilla. 

Farther north, Lee Street is dramatically improved with a road diet that incorporates a median with native plants and shade trees. Not only will this “green” up this section of the trail, eliminating pavement and narrowing vehicular lanes will calm traffic and create a safer and more attractive pedestrian environment for the neighborhood residents as well as those visiting the Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park, currently being designed by the City. 

Lee Street Pond

The current storm water retention pond with standard grassy slopes becomes a major focal point along the trail.  A low-maintenance boardwalk runs immediately adjacent to the pond and provides a wonderful opportunity for bird watching and aquatic viewing. Existing large oak trees are preserved and a shaded overlook area is provided complete with bench seating and “porch swings.” Aquatic/wetland plantings are added to help improve the water quality of the pond

Florida C. Dwight Memorial Playground

The Emerald Trail will follow the perimeter of Florida C Dwight Park, at the corner of Church Street and Eaverson Street. Existing trees will be preserved and shade trees and plantings added to create a picturesque backdrop for this historic landmark honoring Florida Dwight, the playground’s first recreation director and woman who pioneered organized recreation for the city’s African American community. The trail layout will be coordinated with COJ Parks Recreation & Community Services’ future park plans.

S-Line Connection

The LaVilla Link connects with the S-Line Rail Link in a warehouse district perfect for future development of breweries, restaurants, markets or studios. Architectural planters create greenspace and interest within this limited right-of-way. 

The cross walk at State Street is raised and brightly marked to slow traffic and improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists. 

About Groundwork Jacksonville

Groundwork Jacksonville, Inc., is the city’s nonprofit partner in building the Emerald Trail and restoring McCoys Creek and Hogans Creek. Groundwork Jacksonville was formed in 2014 as a partnership between the City of Jacksonville, the US National Park Service, the US Environmental Protection Agency and Groundwork USA. Groundwork is one of 21 Trusts across the country, the only Trust in Florida and the first in the southeastern United States. 

For More Information about Groundwork Jacksonville visit www.groundworkjax.org, or follow them @GroundworkJax.


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