A good friend and I walk the Jemison Trail every week.
The Jemison Trail is a quiet peaceful path that winds along Shades Creek in Mountain Brook.
Recently we noticed a new walking bridge had been constructed along the trail.
I remarked that the bridge must have cost a lot of money.
But since I now live in Vestavia Hills and my friend lives in Mountain Brook, he scoffed…
“Damn it! That bridge was built on the backs of Mountain Brook taxpayers—we need to build a wall and you Vestavia Hills immigrants should pay for it.”
Though he was joking, his snide comment got me thinking about Mountain Brook.
Is Mountain Brook good or bad for our region?
What should we think about our Mountain Brook neighbors?
Even though I often complain we have too many competing municipalities, our friends in Mountain Brook are darn good neighbors.
We in Birmingham often find ourselves at the bottom of one list or another—but when it comes to generosity; we are always near the top.
According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, even though our Birmingham metro is the 48th largest, we rank 3rd most generous.
Review the names of donors and leaders of nonprofits all over Birmingham and you will see people from Mountain Brook from top to bottom.
An example of this generosity both in time and money is our United Way.
Even though we’ve lost many of our public companies and suffered numerous recessions, our United Way has raised more money every year 62 years in a row.
Our United Way de Tocqueville Society, individuals and families who contribute $10,000 a year or more, is the 4th largest in the U.S. (750 members)
That means we have more people donating $10,000 or more a year than cities like New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago—and many of these donors live in Mountain Brook.
Many of these developments were led by Mountain Brook community volunteers and business leaders.
Railroad Park started the Birmingham renaissance. But it wasn’t easy; it took more than twenty years and a lot of hard work and patience to bring the park to fruition.
The park would never have been developed if it hadn’t been for the sheer tenacity of Giles Perkins, a Mountain Brook attorney, who should be called “Mr. Railroad Park.”
Our next unexpected success hinged on the fearless decision by another Mountain Brook resident, Don Logan—owner of the Birmingham Barons—to move his team downtown to a site adjacent to Railroad Park.
Regions Field has been lauded as one of the finest minor league baseball stadiums in America and the Barons’ organization has been rewarded with large attendance.
You might protest that this was not an act of generosity, but a shrewd business decision. And that might be true, except, that many people thought the Barons were crazy to move back into the City.
The decision was a gamble that put the franchise at risk. It looks like a shrewd business decision today—but it wasn’t obvious at the time.
Another extraordinary project is The Rotary Trail.
The Rotary Trail would never have happened without the leadership of Bill Jones, a retired business executive, and Hatton Smith, the CEO emeritus of Birmingham-based Royal Cup. Both men are from Mountain Brook.
In honor of the Birmingham Rotary Club’s Centennial, they raised more than $4 million and worked through the tedious details of designing and building the trail.
Concurrently, energetic Hatton Smith, with the help of many of his friends, led a successful fundraising campaign to save UAB football.
Donors, many from Mountain Brook, pledged more than $40 million to UAB athletics to allow the school to gear up for the rebirth of its football program.
And then there is Jeffrey Bayer, a Mountain Brook resident, whose firm, Bayer Properties, invested $70 million dollars in The Pizitz– featuring the new Pizitz Food Hall.
The Pizitz is transforming downtown north of the railroad tracks just as midtown transformed midtown.
Mountain Brook has nothing to fear
There are currently significant conversations taking place about how our region can come together through cooperation and collaboration.
No option being considered will negatively impact the way of life of any Mountain Brook citizen or risk Mountain Brook’s excellent school system.
Rethink Mountain Brook
Everyone—no matter where they live or who they are—is welcome to walk the Jemison Trail. And the newly constructed bridge makes it easier for walkers and joggers from Homewood to access the trail.
It’s true that much of the wealth of our Birmingham region resides in Mountain Brook and you would expect that much of the philanthropy would come from Mountain Brook. But our Mountain Brook neighbors provide more than their fair share of time, leadership, and resources.
It would be nice if our many governments worked closer together, but citizens from Mountain Brook and our other suburbs work hard to bring us all a better life.
Maybe a better title for this piece might be…
“Mountain Brook builds a well…invites everyone to drink from it.”
Editor’s note: None of the above developments would have been possible without the complete and total support of the City of Birmingham.
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David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).
Invite David to speak to your group about a better Birmingham. firstname.lastname@example.org