Credit: Jermaine Ee / Unsplash
It is estimated that some 42 million people visit New York’s Central Park every year, making it the most-visited urban park in the country. After visiting the park tourists often wonder, “Why can’t our city have something like this?” Of course, every city can create such a gem, so long as they have leaders with vision and the stomach for the grueling fight it takes to bring that vision to reality. Central Park did not emerge from the ether. It took 25 years of brutal political fights, thousands of evictions forced through imminent domain, massive cost overruns—the cost to acquire just the land was more than what the US Treasury would pay for the entire state of Alaska a few years later—and interruption by the Civil War. But they got it done. New Yorkers owe these leaders a debt of gratitude, because of those 42 million annual visitors to the park, only 20% are tourists. The rest are New Yorkers, whose lives across generations are enriched by the vision and grit of those who built Central Park.
Earlier this week at an event put together by Groundwork Jacksonville and the City of Jacksonville, local leaders gathered to break ground on the first segment of The Emerald Trail, a planned 30-mile network of parks, trails, and greenways that will one day connect Jacksonville’s Urban Core neighborhoods. The Emerald Trail, too, did not emerge from the ether. The idea is over 100 years old, first conceived by Henry Klutho, Jacksonville’s patron saint of architecture. Then, for the next 90 years, not much happened outside of locals musing about how “wouldn’t this be nice?” Finally, someone decided, “Yes, it would be nice. Let’s build it.”
Emerald Trail Map. Credit: Groundworks Jacksonville
In 2013, Groundwork Jacksonville partnered with the city, the National Park Service, and the EPA. Working together with POND, they took Klutho’s idea and reimagined it for contemporary Jacksonville. The plan is bold. Bold plans, of course, require money, and lack of funding is the most prolific killer in American History of good ideas. Nonprofits like the PATH Foundation stepped in to provide support, and the private sector stepped up to provide funding. That left the fate of the project on the city. To their immense credit, they delivered substantial funding by passing a local gas tax increase despite loud opposition from the usual suspects. It seems fitting (with just a hint of poetic justice) that the project will be funded through a tax on automobile use.
Park Street Bridge Trail Segment. Credit: Groundworks Jacksonville
We will continue to check in as construction progresses and take a deeper look at things like the economic impact of similar projects, improvements in health outcomes, livability indexes, etc. We’ll also go into more detail about how Harbinger is doing its part to help. But today let’s celebrate the shared public value of the Emerald Trail in its own right, a part of the local fabric so ingrained that future generations won’t be able to imagine the city without it.
Find out how you can support the Emerald Trail at Groundworks Jacksonville.
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