Jacksonville’s Emerald Trail project is under way – expensive, unnecessary and potentially dangerous but still widely admired.
It will wind for 30 miles through the urban core, providing Jacksonville citizens with an unique opportunity to stroll through some of the most crime-ridden areas of town late at night.
The cost is advertised to be $132 million but is expected to be a lot more before it is completed, somewhat like the “$190 million” courthouse taxpayers built at a cost of $350 million.
Streets adequately link all of the points on the trail so it isn’t clear why a trail is needed.
Part of it will, however, follow the banks of McCoys and Hogan creeks and one justifiable part of the plan is cleaning up those unsightly creeks.
Otherwise, it’s value is dubious. Mayor Lenny Curry calls it a “big deal” and says it will have great benefits. (We would ask him what they are but he doesn’t speak to Eye on Jacksonville, only approved media.)
Supporters claim new businesses will spring up along the route, creating jobs and wealth, (and tax revenue for the city).
Maybe a few lemonade stands will be built, but what else?
Will there be enough lighting, cameras and police presence to protect people walking along the trail – if anyone does?
If the city had enough up-to-date infrastructure and plenty of excess money, the trail would be justified.
But politicians have spent the last year or two admitting they have let the city’s roads, sewers and drainage facilities run down, despite spending billions of tax dollars.
They pushed through tax increases to pay for the work they claim is needed.
Money from the increased taxes will be used to build the trail, which can only be considered a frill.
If it is of any value it could be done piecemeal with recurring revenues.
The city has been spending about $150 million a year on capital projects for years and if this one is as beneficial as claimed it could have substituted for some of the pork in that budget.
But any money politicians find in the budget seems to gravitate toward the city’s professional football team. Other projects must wait in line. Soon, another shoe will drop when the breath-taking cost of rebuilding the stadium is announced.
The southeast point of the trail will be at the football stadium so that perambulating taxpayers can pause to appreciate where their money is going.