Can you imagine 750 miles of cycling, walking, and running trails interconnecting Birmingham, linking communities and the entire city? It’s not just a dream. It’s a reality that has been in the works for more than two years.
The Red Rock Ridge & Valley Trail System is an elaborate, detailed plan that involves creating and connecting six primary greenways and trails. Regions of the Magic City will be accessible by alternate means of transportation, allowing thousands of Birmingham area residents the opportunity to leave the car at home and enjoy a nice run, walk, or bike ride to their destination. Thanks to the funding and help of the Freshwater Land Trust, this plan is flying ahead of schedule and coming along smoothly. More than 3,000 people provided feedback about trails, sidewalks, and bike lanes.
These trails follow the area’s waterways, such as Shades Creek, Five-Mile Creek, Turkey Creek, Village Creek, Valley Creek, and the Cahaba River. Mile by mile, Birmingham’s residents will be given the chance to reconnect with the outdoors in an easy and convenient way. Some of these trails already exist, such as the Lakeshore Trail (also known as the Shades Creek Greenway).
Besides joining communities together, the network of multi-use trails have many benefits. Studies have shown that convenient trails increase the values of the adjacent properties and bring revenue into the city. If done right, trails can reduce flooding near bodies of water, which is helpful for Birmingham, where creeks and rivers run throughout. The health benefits are impressive as well.
In anabstract conducted by UAB of the economic impact of green spaces available in Jefferson County in 2010, the survey revealed that 34 percent of the responders reported not being physically active. However, if those responders used the green spaces that were available for them, the abstract estimates that more than $42 million would be saved in projected direct medical costs per year. Being physically active and taking advantage of safe places to walk, bike, or jog significantly reduces the negative effects of obesity-related illnesses and allows users the opportunity for social interaction that they would otherwise be missing.
The planning process for this enormous vision was organized by Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood, a planning and engineering firm whose team dedicated to the Red Rock Trail called themselves the “Our One Mile” team. They created a greenways master plan for Jefferson County and has experience in doing so across the state of Alabama, including the Chief Ladiga Trail, Aldridge Creek, Indian Creek, and Big Cove Greenways in Huntsville.
One of the first questions many people have about a project of this caliber is: Where will the money come from? Funding for such a large plan can be tricky, but the support has been overwhelming. Funding has been committed from various resources, including transportation funding from federal, state, and local levels as well as private funding from individuals or organizations that believe in the trail system and all it has to offer.
The Cahaba River is the largest free-flowing river in the state of Alabama, and the Cahaba River Corridor is a 61.4-mile pathway that will follow the lines of the river. Because the Cahaba River is also the primary drinking water source of Birmingham Metro, the pathway will be water-quality sensitive.
To get more information about this incredible change taking hold of Birmingham, tune in to Fox 6’s Good Day Alabama with Jeh Jeh Pruitt on the first Tuesday of every month (dubbed “Red Rock Tuesday”) as Pruitt and the Freshwater Land Trust visit a town in Jefferson County. They walk their portion of the Red Rock Ridge & Valley Trail System. The health, economic, and environmental benefits of parks and trails are discussed, and the segment features giveaways and announcements about upcoming projects as well.
To director Stan Palla, avid cyclist and organizer/co-founder of Le Tour de Ham, the Red Rock Trail is a tying together of communities that Birmingham would benefit from.
“Birmingham is lucky to have all these backstreets with room for this project,” he says. “I think the Magic City really is Magic. That’s why I do what I do. That’s why I love it.” When the Red Rock Trail was described as being a massive vision, Palla responded with, “Nobody was ever inspired by small dreams.”
The Magic City has wholeheartedly embraced this vision. The rail corridor from Brookside to Fultondale and Gardendale is currently in the works, and soon Tarrant and Pinson will ultimately be tied together. Communities, groups and individuals are encouraged to get involved and pitch in. Local Scout groups such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Trail Life USA troops are welcome to get involved and work toward their badges while bettering their community. There are plenty of places to get involved, from local cleanups that prepare for the trails to the digging and building that takes many sets of hands to carry out. Just visit the website and click “Get Involved” for more information on how you can help.