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Groundwork Jacksonville design to link downtown, Northside trails with S Line 'Connector'

There’s a long way to go, but a running club’s $50,000 donation has started a push by nonprofit Groundwork Jacksonville to bankroll designs to connect six miles of trails through the city’s core.

“It’s huge,” Groundwork CEO Kay Ehas said of the gift from JTC Running that was the first step in a roughly $430,000 fundraising effort to help pay for the designs.

The new visuals will detail work being planned to remake a 1.3-mile stretch of the old S Line rail route crossing Springfield and surrounding neighborhoods. That section, called the S Line Connector, would connect with trails to its north and south to form an unbroken route from downtown’s Brooklyn area to Norwood Plaza near Gateway Mall on the Northside.

The city has tentatively scheduled $2.8 million in its 2021-22 capital budget to build the connector, but before then the city has an agreement with Groundwork that each will pay half of the estimated $860,000 design bill.

To have the designs ready in time, Groundwork is trying to raise its share of the project cost by December. Ehas said she the group is asking wealthy donors and grant-giving foundations but having a substantial part of the money already on hand is helping to get the project started.

In addition to two existing stretches of the S Line, construction is scheduled to start this year on a model leg of Groundwork’s Emerald Trail, a web of greenways intended to eventually stretch for 30 miles and include the S Line.

The model section will run from the S Line’s southern endpoint near Myrtle Avenue in LaVilla to Park Street in Brooklyn near McCoys Creek.

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