Jacksonville’s Emerald Trail paves over consolidation’s broken promises

Congratulations to the Deegan administration and JTA’s CEO Nat Ford in securing $147 million in federal funding for sidewalks restoring broken promises of Jacksonville’s original racist sin of consolidation.

No one seemed to notice when Mayor Donna Deegan held a press conference to announce Jacksonville was awarded the largest government grant in our city’s history for the Emerald Trail project.

$147 million dollars in government funds will go towards building 30 miles of paved walking paths around Jacksonville’s urban core. The urban core encompasses a 30 square mile radius of the city before consolidation in 1968.

The city also has dedicated $36 million dollars from the gas tax stash towards the project, bringing the cost of the project to a whopping $183 million dollars. And the woman behind the campaign is already begging the mayor for more.

At the press conference Deegan explains infrastructure isn’t just about roads and bridges. Apparently, infrastructure also dismantles pretend “structural racism” by connecting people.

The mayor told the audience, “…it’s one of the biggest goals of this grant. Reconnecting neighborhoods that were cut off by transportation and infrastructure decisions implemented decades ago. Schools, jobs, medical offices, places of worship, they will soon be more accessible for those neighborhoods that have been left behind. It’s one of the ways we are making good on the broken promises of consolidation.”

For some reason, it is very important for Deegan to un-do every single alleged “broken promise” stemming from the city’s 56-year-old consolidation of city and county governments. It is the essence of her legacy as mayor.

Kay Ehas is the CEO of the nonprofit Groundwork Jacksonville. The Emerald Trail is her baby. The nonprofit started asking the city five years ago to construct the trail. Ehas excitedly tells the audience the project will “prevent displacement” and “increase prosperity” for people living along the trail.

Ehas says the goal of the plan is for residents to be the “architects of their neighborhood revitalization” and apparently sharecroppers. Ehas, a gray-haired white lady, gleefully proclaimed she envisions acre sized farms along the trail so minority residents can grow their own crops!

Ford explained how the trail will help with “connectivity, mobility, economic vitality and health care.”

So, after walking or riding a bike down a concrete path in Florida’s 90-degree heat for a medical appointment, afterwards our city’s marginalized can walk on that same sweltering foot path to work the fields in the blazing hot sun while advancing DEI. I feel less racist and more inclusive just thinking about how terrible that sounds. Don’t you?

I’m curious why wealthy politicians and taxpayer funded nonprofits believe people who are less fortunate, black or Hispanic are desperate to grow their own food and ride a bike everywhere?

After some digging… it seems the Emerald Trail, just like most of the mayor’s stated ideas to save Jacksonville, are not her own.

Groundwork Jacksonville is a local nonprofit that started under the Alvin Brown administration. The group is a local chapter of the national organization, Groundwork USA.

The local and national groups are funded by Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act under the U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s Neighborhood Access & Equity Program Grant.

Groundwork USA is a silly national nonprofit touting the ridiculously stupid idea mother nature excludes black and brown people from going outside. The group is committed to “undoing the legacies of poverty and racial discrimination” by trying to create a future where every neighborhood is “green, healthy and resilient.”

Now, we understand preventing people from being poor and socially engineering entire neighborhoods filled with healthy, happy productive members of society is impossible. Not even God himself is willing to do that for us.

That’s why our money must be taken by force and given to nonprofits doing God’s work for him.

For example, without the Groundwork nonprofit, I would have never known our national parks system isn’t an inclusive or welcoming space for “Latinx” and Hispanic people. The nonprofit is working hard to make sure Hispanic people are invited to “experience the great outdoors” and to also “genuinely feel welcomed and represented in these spaces.”

Lord Jesus take the wheel. 

Deegan brags the trail will bring economic opportunity, 1,500 “direct and indirect” jobs, affordable housing, as well as preserve character and history.

Sounds amazing. But I have some concerns when it comes to safety.

The Emerald Trail paves a huge open pathway connecting statistically safe neighborhoods with Jacksonville’s most dangerous. Encouraging suburban housewives pushing baby strollers, families and young professionals to go for a stroll down Phoenix Avenue seems pretty irresponsible, but that’s probably just my unconscious bias clouding my judgement. 

In totally unrelated news no one cares about… a 12-year-old girl was shot in a drive-by shooting walking along the sidewalk on Buffalo Avenue near Panama Park this week. The girl is the 10th kid shot in Jacksonville this year. I am sure Deegan will work just as hard bringing the shooter to justice as she is on reversing pretend structural racism from 1968 by building sidewalks.

Atlanta’s Beltline Trail is so safe the city recently created the 15-officer Path Force Police unit to patrol 22 miles of mix use trails around the city center because of so many strong-armed robberies and theft reports.

After a quick internet search, I found several stories highlighting acts of violence along the trails.

In 2022, a convicted felon randomly shot and killed a 60-year-old cyclist out for a ride. Police also have the suspect on camera with two other men “aggressively” following a woman down the path while making “unwanted advances” as well as breaking into cars.

One article reveals that people living along new portions of the Beltline under construction do not feel safe in their own homes. One homeowner says as soon as the city started building the path, bullets started flying. Shell casings are often found along the trail. Homeowners say the paths connecting neighborhoods together are basically an open invitation for criminals.

Hmmm… none of that sounds like anything coming from the upbeat and exciting press conference the city put together…

JTA’s Ford brags the Emerald Trail’s impact on Jacksonville will “resonate for generations to come.”

With a price tag of $187 million dollars, its impact will for sure resonate in the wallets of generations to come.

Now, whether or not the Emerald Trail reverses all those broken promises Deegan promises to promise to fix… remains to be seen.

Lindsey Roberts

Lindsey Roberts graduated from the University of Florida where she studied history and journalism. She was a multimedia producer at First Coast News for five years and then pursued her career as a Mommy to two beautiful children. She has always followed political news and anything specifically related to issues affecting the family and the American way of life. She is ready to get back to her roots by writing for Eye On My City. We are thrilled to have her onboard!!

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