Groundwork Jacksonville (GWJax) announced today that the local environmental trust was awarded $357,280 through the Community-based Restoration Program of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries).
The grant will take Phase 2 of the McCoys Creek restoration plan from 30% to 100% design, which includes daylighting the creek under the Morris Publishing Group property and replacing the existing ditch with approximately 4,000 feet of open, soft-bottom channel and living shoreline. This restored creek inlet, from the mouth of the St. Johns River to Myrtle St., will increase water flow, allow fish passage and promote natural habitat for fish, plants and wildlife.
“Groundwork is honored to bring this very competitive federal grant home to Jacksonville for the McCoys Creek restoration project,” said Kay Ehas, Groundwork CEO. “This is our second significant grant for McCoys Creek within the last nine months, further validating our natural channel design approach to creek restoration, flood prevention, habitat renewal, and water quality improvement,” added Ehas. In November, Groundwork was granted $250,000 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and NOAA through the National Coastal Resilience Fund for creek restoration design which is being used for the north and south branches of McCoys Creek between the Beaver and Edison Street bridges. Groundwork is currently raising an additional $450,000 to complete the branches design including trail and recreational amenities.
As part of the NOAA grant, GWJax will work with Jacksonville University on a fish study focused on Atlantic sturgeon, summer flounder, sheepshead, red drum, pink shrimp, brown shrimp, white shrimp, American shad, and American eel populations. Additionally, GWJax will work with the Environmental Quality Division of the City of Jacksonville (COJ) on water quality sampling. “Our hope is to prove the effectiveness of stream restoration in improving water quality as a best practice for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection,” said Ehas.
NOAA’s Community-based Restoration Program supports habitat restoration projects that promote productive and sustainable fisheries, improve the recovery and conservation of protected resources, and promote healthy ecosystems and resilient communities.
“Through our strategic investments in habitat restoration, we support a multitude of benefits for both ecosystems and communities,” said Pat Montanio, director of the NOAA Fisheries Office of Habitat Conservation. “Projects like Groundwork Jacksonville’s work restoring McCoys Creek not only support valuable fish species, they also boost local community resilience and economies through protection from flooding, improved water quality, and increased recreational opportunities.”
The NOAA grant will supplement funds already earmarked by the city for the project. “My administration values our partnership with Groundwork Jacksonville as we work together to restore McCoys Creek to a beautiful natural resource and recreational amenity for our citizens,” said Mayor Lenny Curry. “Groundwork’s success in securing highly coveted national grants such as this supports the city’s goal of developing innovative, resilient solutions that will protect our quality of life for generations to come.”
About McCoys Creek Restoration Plan
The once meandering McCoys Creek was entirely replaced with straightened ditches and bulkheaded canals in the late 1920s. When the floodplain and wetlands were filled in, critical habitat for plants, fish and wildlife was destroyed. The former tidal stream found along the lower half of the creek no longer has a marsh platform, and the channel connection to the St. Johns River has been relocated and buried under an 850-foot culvert that poses a formidable barrier to fish passage. In the lower St. Johns River downstream of the Acosta Bridge, most of the tributary outlets have been filled in, culverted or converted to marinas making McCoys Creek inlet even more important to fish habitat.
Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solutions, Inc. (Wood) in partnership with SCAPE Landscape Architecture DPC, and CDM Smith Inc., is developing the McCoys Creek restoration design for GWJax and COJ, which impacts approximately 2.8 miles of creek and 142 acres of surrounding land. The design will be implemented by COJ which has budgeted approximately $115 million over the next three years for planning and construction.
WOOD’s natural channel design approach offers multiple benefits including creation of fish and wildlife habitat, improved water quality, reduced flooding, and the addition of nature-based recreation. The overall project plan also includes:
- Closure of the frequently flooded McCoys Creek Blvd from Hollybrook Park to Claude Street and from Goodwin St. to Margaret St.
- Replacement of King and Stockton Street bridges to accommodate channel improvements and improve roadway level of service
- Remediation of existing ash contamination
- Creation of recreational spaces, and bike/pedestrian paths along the Emerald Trail
- Numerous recreational amenities, such as play pods and kayak launches, along the creek
GWJax is conducting community engagement and outreach activities to gain resident and business input as part of the design process and will continue to work with the community throughout construction and beyond.
About Groundwork Jacksonville
Groundwork Jacksonville, Inc., is the city’s primary nonprofit organization specifically created to restore our urban creeks and clean, redevelop and convert contaminated land into parks, playgrounds, trails, and other public greenspace. Groundwork Jacksonville was formed as a partnership between the City of Jacksonville, the US National Park Service, the US Environmental Protection Agency and Groundwork USA. GWJax is one of 21 Trusts across the country, the only Trust in Florida and the first in the southeastern United States.
Groundwork’s mission is to build and connect Jacksonville’s Emerald Trail, an idea championed by famed architect Henry Klutho in the early 20th Century. When complete the Emerald Trail will connect approximately 30-miles of new and existing trails, greenways and parks that encircle the urban core and link at least 14 historic neighborhoods and downtown to Hogans Creek, McCoys Creek, the S-Line Rail Trail and the Northbank and Southbank riverwalks. The trail will link to 16 schools, two colleges and 21 parks among other destinations like restaurants, retail and businesses, with an additional 20 schools and 21 parks located within three blocks of the trail.
The first 1.3-mile segment, or Model Project, will connect the south end of the existing S-Line Rail Trail through to the intersection of Park Street and Stonewall Street, near the Convention Center connecting the LaVilla and Brooklyn neighborhoods. GWJax is currently half-way to its $1,000,000 goal – 25% of the Model Project design and construction cost. The City of Jacksonville will pay the remaining 75%. Construction will begin in 2021.
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