30-mile Emerald Trail one step closer to reality

For years downtown development in Jacksonville has centered on the Shipyards, but there is another project that already has millions of dollars budgeted, with plans for actual construction.

That project is the Emerald Trial. In the 30-mile plan, it would connect 14 neighborhoods, 16 schools, and 21 parks. It would also connect the Riverwalk, the Shipyards, and the sports complex.

On Wednesday Jacksonville’s City Council announced they have approved the purchase of the first property for the multi-million dollar project after being negotiated by the North Florida Land Trust (NFLT).

At a council meeting Tuesday night, City Council voted unanimously to approve the contract negotiated by the nonprofit land conservation organization that is serving as the city’s real estate consultant. NFLT worked with the owner to negotiate a price of $117,000 for the purchase of the property at the corner of Kings St. and McCoys Creek Blvd.

“The Emerald Trail is now underway with the approval of the contract to purchase this property for Phase 1 of this project,” said Jim McCarthy, president of NFLT. “We thank the Council Members for agreeing with the contract we negotiated with the landowner. This first step is a great start towards creating the Emerald Trail and restoring the wildlife habitats along McCoys Creek.”

Last month Action News Jax told you Jacksonville City Councilmember, Matt Carlucci intended to introduce an amendment which would redirect $150 million in the city’s newly-approved gas tax funding from the Skyway conversion project to be used instead on the development of the Emerald Trail.

“The Emerald Trail can be transformational for Jacksonville. And this still leaves everything else intact to take care of the old promises of consolidation,” said Carlucci.

Mayor Lenny Curry’s Chief of Staff, Jordan Elsbury, says Carlucci’s amendment has the support of Jacksonville’s mayor.

“From a policy perspective, the mayor has always supported funding the Emerald Trail,” said Elsbury. “This is a revenue source that can cover it and the mayor is 100 percent supportive of the amendment.”

North Florida Land Trust was contracted by the City of Jacksonville last year to handle the technical and real estate services required for the project.

McCoys Creek, which runs from the mouth of the St. Johns River through historic urban neighborhoods, regularly floods during normal rainfall. The properties that the City is identifying for acquisition leaders say will alleviate flooding, help restore habitats, and improve the area to provide a more resilient ecosystem.

North Florida Land Trust is a not-for-profit organization that seeks to protect the natural resources, historic places and working lands (farms and ranches) throughout north Florida. NFLT is funded largely by private and corporate contributions and works closely with willing landowners and public agencies at all levels of government, not-for-profit partners, and foundations. For more information, visit nflt.org.

Samantha Mathers

Samantha Mathers, Action News Jax

Samantha Mathers is a digital reporter and content creator for Action News Jax.