Alachua County is moving forward on constructing two projects intended to promote economic development: a park to recycle garbage into resources and a countywide bike trail system.
Although the projects are diverse in nature, both are meant to stimulate economic growth, said Edgar Campa-Palafox, the county’s economic development coordinator. The Alachua County Resource Recovery Park will serve as a breeding ground for manufacturing companies and provide an anticipated 200 new jobs, while the implementation of the Trail Towns Program is intended to grow ecotourism in the county.
The county is seeking a $1.5 million grant from the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund to help with the construction of a 37-acre Resource Recovery Park, which will be adjacent to the Alachua County Transfer Facility. The grant would cover 33 percent of the project’s costs, and the county would supply the remainder of the funding, Campa-Palafox said.
Regardless of whether or not grant money is secured, the county plans to break ground on the park by the middle of this year. The park is planned for North Waldo Road, about two miles from the Gainesville Regional Airport, and will be particularly helpful for east Gainesville’s economy, Campa-Palafox said.
The eco-industrial park will include sewers, roads, utilities and stormwater facilities necessary to attract manufacturing businesses that specialize in processing recyclable materials, he said.
“That way it’s going to help us not only train jobs in our community but also increase our recycling rate in Alachua County,” he said.
The county is also working toward establishing a Trail Town Program — an extensive network of bike trails that will connect cyclists with businesses in the area.
“What we’re trying to do with the program is really capitalize on that growing tourism industry,” Campa-Palafox said.
Although the County hasn’t applied for any grants regarding the Trail Town Program, they have begun looking into various funding options, Campa-Palafox said.
Amanda Brown, a 27-year-old UF alumna, fell in love with cycling during her time at UF because of the trails Gainesville has to offer.
“I know that a lot of people visit Gainesville just for (the Gainesville-Hawthorne) trail,” she said. “And continuing to expand upon that and connecting more of the city through bike trails — that’s huge for the economy.”
Brown said she believes investing in more bike trails is worthwhile for the city not only economically, but also for its environmental benefits.
“Cars aren’t sustainable,” she said. “The way in which we’re going we’ve got to look to alternative transportation methods.”