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.”

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.

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 us @GroundworkJax.