Probably no word has been employed by city boosters more often than “catalyst.”
Every new project, from Riverwalk to Jacksonville Landing to the now defunct Lot J has been described as a “catalyst” for bringing downtown back to life.
Here’s the latest:
“The Emerald Trail has the potential to be a catalyst for social and economic development in Jacksonville, from encouraging healthy lifestyles and promoting public safety, to spurring economic growth and neighborhood revitalization,” the official Web site says.
What is proposed is a 30-mile pathway around the urban core, designed for walkers and bikers.
Included in the plan would be the cleanup of a couple of creeks that are public eyesores.
Who could be against a pretty path around the city, with clean waterways?
It sounds good, of course, but the question as always is – at what cost?
Well, it cost $88,200 just to plan it, and the cost to build it may be around $132 million.
That’s not chump change and it comes at a time when local politicians seem to be on a spending spree that has no end in sight.
They want to raise taxes and spend billions on a wide array of endeavors.
Ominously, these expensive plans don’t even include pricey things like “resiliency” and a new football stadium that are forecast for the near future.
Among questions people might be asking:
What would the cost be just to clean up Hogan’s and McCoy’s creeks? No one would argue the need.
The Emerald Trail proponents talk about swimming, fishing and kayaking in those creeks, which would be horrifying prospects currently.
But how many people actually would do those things? How many would walk and bike on the trail?
One big question: would it be safe? The route of the trail runs though some of the most crime-ridden areas of the city. Can they guarantee 24/7 police protection?
Another: are more parks a vital need?
I can easily walk to six city parks from my house.
During the reign of Mayor John Delaney, the city bought up land furiously and claimed the title of the city with the most parks and recreation in America.
In the process, it took some $30 million worth of land off the tax rolls, but maybe it was worth it.
Cost and benefit always are a consideration. Or should be.
A recent poll found considerable support for the Emerald Trail (if the poll was accurate), and it has City Council backing. But it shouldn’t be a slam-dunk until it is more thoroughly vetted.