JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The excitement is building for Emerald Trail in Jacksonville. Construction of the massive trail project is scheduled to begin next year with a 1-mile segment of the route set to be complete in 10 years.
People across the country celebrated the Opening Day of Trails on Saturday and hundreds gathered in Jacksonville to celebrate the upcoming Emerald Trail by walking the area where the trail will be built.
"I think it is wonderful. It is time for Jacksonville to reach out to all the neighborhoods," resident Barbara Sharp said.
The Emerald Trail is considered to be a green gem by many in the River City.
"It will connect 14 urban core neighborhoods that will connect downtown, (and) downtown to the river, to the creeks," Groundwork Jacksonville CEO Kay Ehas said. "(It will) connect to 18 public schools, two colleges, and 28 parks directly and within three blocks of another 20 schools and 20 parks."
Ehas runs a nonprofit created to restore urban creeks and clean, redevelop and convert contaminated land into parks and trails.
"The fact the city is partnering with us, and they are going to pay (for) 75% of the project is huge. Groundwork is going to raise another $1 million for the other 25%," she said.
The total estimated cost of the project is about $30 million, money Ehas said will be well spent.
"It puts Jacksonville on par with those other great cities. We will have our own trail system," Ehas said.
Supporters of the project believe it will spur Jacksonville's economic development and become an engine for transportation, health and nature.