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Jax Daily Record Friday, Jan. 5, 200712:00 PM EST

Creeks a key element in Downtown open space plans

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

by Max Marbut

Staff Writer

Just as the St. Johns River is the focal point of Downtown, two other waterways will be the centerpieces of future parks and greenspace development, according to presentations at Thursday’s Pedestrian Experience, Open Space & the River Task Force meeting.

The group is one of four charged by the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission to create plans for Downtown improvements.

Joseph Ehardt of HDR, a consulting firm hired by the JEDC, presented plans for development of the Hogans Creek greenway that would stretch from State Street to 8th Street. It will be a 12-foot wide asphalt path for walking, jogging and cycling with rest areas and shelters that will reflect the original drawings prepared by architect Henry Klutho, who designed the park in the early 20th century.

The Hogans Creek project will be funded through an $850,000 FDOT grant, but Ehardt pointed out that no funds are currently available to clean up the creek itself.

“Hogans Creek is the single most important development project for Springfield,” added Carol Worsham, another HDR consultant. “It’s the single largest greenspace Downtown and just as important as the Riverwalk.”

Len Buffington, a landscape architect with Prosser Hallock, presented his firm’s concept for the McCoy’s Creek pedestrian park that would be built from Edison Avenue past I-95, through Brooklyn and to the Riverwalk near the Haskell Building.

Buffington said the plan would “use the greenway to connect neighborhoods to the river and to Downtown,” but admitted that the process was not without its challenges. Those include the acquisition of all the property needed for the project and environmental issues.

Leaking storage tanks are still under the ground and much of the land in the proposal is contaminated with ash from a former incinerator site. Buffington said the entire greenway will have to be built on top of the existing soil, which cannot be disturbed.

Worsham also detailed plans for a new pocket park on Main Street across from the Main Library. She said the park was added to a larger project funded by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to plant date palms along Main Street from Forsyth to State streets. While palms were chosen for the FDOT part of the project due to their tall, narrow nature, Worsham said the live oaks and magnolias planned for the park will add to Downtown’s tree canopy and provide shade.

She also pointed out that the park should not be considered “temporary” because it is a low-impact development that would allow changes in the future based on development trends.

JEDC Executive Director Ron Barton said other task force plans include taking the Riverwalk “to the next level with a ‘nodal concept’ to create areas people can embrace” – rather than making the long, linear structure even longer and more linear. He said improving access for boaters who’d like to come Downtown is also part of the concept.

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