Once the centerpiece of the historic neighborhoods just west of downtown, McCoys Creek has become a neglected and forgotten eyesore that floods nearby roads, homes and businesses during heavy North Florida rainfall. Fortunately, a new era may be dawning for McCoys Creek. The City of Jacksonville is committing millions of dollars over the next several years to implement stormwater management, trails and park improvements and is allowing Groundwork Jacksonville to provide a plan to restore McCoys Creek to its rightful place as a community attraction.

Groundwork Jacksonville has engaged Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solutions, Inc. (Wood) to develop a McCoys Creek Restoration Plan that will address flooding, restore the natural environment and uncover the creek’s recreational potential. The plan will impact approximately 142 acres including about 2.8 miles of McCoys Creek and surrounding land, as well as two parks abutting the creek—Hollybrook Park and Brooklyn Park.

“The creek restoration plan will present a more holistic approach than traditional flood mitigation by integrating natural channel design and green infrastructure to also improve creek function, water quality, wildlife habitat and recreation,” said Kay Ehas, Groundwork Jacksonville CEO. “In Wood, we have hired one of the renowned creek restoration experts with a proven track record in urban creek design and green stormwater management,” she added.

Wood is a global leader operating in more than 60 countries, employing around 55,000 people, with revenues of approximately $10 billion in the delivery of project, engineering and technical services. Wood employs 400 people in 11 offices throughout Florida including Jacksonville, and has been serving clients in the region for more than 30 years.

“The benefits of natural channel design are transformative to a community,” said Wood Technical Manager, Dr. John Kiefer, PhD, PE, PWS, an expert with more than 25 years of experience in environmental engineering and restoration ecology. “In contrast to streams like McCoys that are channelized and bulkheaded, naturally meandering creeks and their adjacent watershed provide superior flood prevention, fishing, water quality, resiliency and ecosystem growth. Additionally, our attention to the aesthetics of infrastructure and rehabilitation projects allows us to turn eyesores into treasured community assets.”

For the contract, Wood is partnering with SCAPE, Landscape Architecture DPC. SCAPE is a design-driven landscape architecture and urban design studio based in New York. The firm is a nationally recognized leader in waterfront park design and coastal resilience. SCAPE works to integrate natural cycles and systems into environments across all scales, from the urban pocket-park to the regional ecological plan. They do this through diverse forms of landscape architecture with the ultimate goal of connecting people to their immediate environment and creating dynamic and adaptive landscapes of the future.

Ehas says that Wood and SCAPE are logical partners because they share Groundwork’s commitment to community engagement. “They don’t view nature as separate from society. Their ethic is that urban streams are about people not just habitat.” As part of the planning process, Groundwork will convene a task force comprised of key stakeholders from adjacent neighborhoods and businesses, the City and environmental organizations. “This allows us to engage in meaningful dialogue to better understand how residents currently, and/or would like to, interact with the creek and informs our design on things like amenities, access and green space,” she added.

The plan will take 16 months to develop at a cost of $300,000 and will be underwritten by a combination of private donors and grants. The Environmental Protection Board approved $84,600 to fund Groundwork’s McCoys Creek Plan and is awaiting City Council approval. Groundwork is currently seeking additional funding partners for the plan.

According to Ehas, Groundwork is developing the resiliency-based plan not only to serve as a demonstration project for the implementation of natural channel design and the associated water quality benefits this approach delivers, but also to make the City eligible for matching and cost-share grants from government agencies and environmental organizations.