Groundwork Jacksonville (GWJax) announced significant progress toward building the Emerald Trail within the next 10 years during a news conference at City Hall on Aug. 26, including new corporate ambassadors, major donors and a check presentation to Mayor Lenny Curry for the design of the Emerald Trail Model Project.
“The Emerald Trail must be a project that benefits our entire community—especially the residents and businesses in the neighborhoods the trail will go through, along with all Jacksonville residents, visitors and tourists,” Kay Ehas, GWJax CEO, said.
The project represents a partnership between GWJax, the City of Jacksonville and the philanthropic and business communities. Co-Trail Champions David Miller, co-founder and executive chairman of Brightway Insurance, and Brian Wolfburg, president and CEO, VyStar Credit Union, will serve as ambassadors for the project in the community.
“I believe in this project, not only for what we are doing, but just as importantly, for how we are doing it. We will be intentional about involving all sectors of the community, to build a trail that connects many of our underserved neighborhoods and uplifts our entire community,” Miller said.
“What excites me about the trail is the activation of the space and integration of art, nature and recreation. This project will be transformational for downtown,” Wolfburg said.
Michael Pajcic, of the Law Firm Pajcic & Pajcic, and his father, Steve, are avid cyclists who see the need for the Emerald Trail. Michael, his wife Katy DeBriere, Steve and wife Anne along with their law firm Pajcic & Pajcic, have made the first multi-year financial commitment to the Emerald Trail of $50,000 per year for the next four years.
“When we heard about the plans for the Emerald Trail project, we did not hesitate to get involved. Having safe, designated bicycle and walking paths throughout the core of the city is something that will benefit and transform our entire community – from Riverside/Avondale, where we live now, to Woodstock Park, where my dad grew up,” Pajcic said.
GWJax presented a ceremonial check to Mayor Lenny Curry for $180,000 representing its portion of the first 1.3-mile Model Project design costs. Called the LaVilla Link, the Model Project will connect the S-Line to Brooklyn, through LaVilla. Design begins next month. Construction will take a year to complete and is expected to begin in fall of 2020.
Ehas closed the conference announcing GWJax’s first challenge grant. “I am thrilled to announce a $250,000, 1 to 3 challenge grant, from the Delores Barr Weaver Fund at The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida. Thanks to the generous donors we recognized today, we are already more than halfway to meeting her challenge and raising our first $1,000,000 for the Trail,” she said.
In addition to the Pajcic family, David Miller contributed $100,000 as the first matching grant to the project. Likewise Vystar, the largest contributor to date, committed $275,000 for the Emerald Trail and McCoys Creek restoration.