Today’s guest columnist is Carolyn Buck.
We are laser-focused on building a massive trail system for Birmingham.
Seven hundred and fifty miles of multi-use trails, parks, bike lanes, and sidewalks to connect Jefferson County residents.
Trails for recreation, alternative transportation, physical and mental health, the preservation of green space, community connectivity, economic development, and tourism.
Demand has exploded
Although an estimated 2.5 million people use our Red Rock Trail System (RRTS) trails every year, we’ve seen an increased uptick of usage during the COVID-19 pandemic as people are seeing a greater need for safe places to go to find solace and connection with the outdoors.
Six years ago, Comeback Town published an article about Freshwater Land Trust’s (FLT) up-and-coming RRTS.
Much has changed in six years
Since then, FLT has expanded the Red Rock Trail System to 125 miles of trails, and it’s still growing.
We’ve facilitated critical connections in Jefferson County. And we’re gearing up to push even harder to get more trails on the ground and create even more connections.
Trails built since 2016
We’ve facilitated some pretty amazing, groundbreaking trails in the last six years.
- Kiwanis Vulcan Trail: This one-mile extension was completed in 2017 as part of a $5.6 million project led by the Kiwanis Club, adding on to the 1.2-mile already existing trail. The off-road trail is now 2.2 miles long and connects Vulcan Park & Museum to Green Springs Highway.
- High Ore Line Trail: Two miles were completed in 2016, followed by the third and final mile in 2019. This rail-to-trail connects Midfield at the Jefferson County Western Health Center to Red Mountain Park.
- Wildwood Preserve: FLT opened its 51-acre Wildwood Preserve to the public in 2018, complete with almost a mile of wooded hiking trails.
Bessemer Rail Trail: Bessemer’s first-ever rails-to-trails project opened in 2018, a one-mile trail with plans to extend it further.
- Five Mile Creek Greenway in Gardendale: This two-mile addition completed in 2019 means that trail users can walk, run, and bike eleven miles round trip between Gardendale and Fultondale on a flat, crushed gravel trail.
- Clairmont Walking Trail: This 0.8-mile trail runs through the heart of Crestwood.
Trails opening soon
While we have 125 miles on the ground, there’s still quite a ways to go to reach our ultimate goal of 750 miles. Trails currently under construction include two segments that will facilitate game-changing connections in downtown Birmingham and pave the way towards connecting to Ruffner Mountain.
One segment is currently under construction and will connect the Rotary Trail to Avondale’s 41st Street. We anticipate its completion in early 2022.
Another segment, which has already been designed, will pick up at 41st Street and connect to historic Continental Gin. Construction should start at the beginning of 2022.
These two segments combined will add nearly two miles to complete the Jones Valley Trail Corridor and should be open in time for the 2022 World Games.
We’ve gotten significant attention
Innovate Alabama, a report The Hoover Institution at Stanford University prepared for the Alabama Innovation Commission in October, addresses four critical economic development issues in the State, including outdoor recreational infrastructure. The report prominently features the RRTS – holding the RRTS up as an exemplar of what The Hoover Institution recommends Alabama should strive to accomplish.
In 2020, we also received a national SHIFT Award for Land Management Innovation for the RRTS, one of only six recipients from across the country.
Red Rock Trail System plan and brand
As we continue to build more trails, we are working with the national active transportation company, Alta Planning and Design, to update the RRTS’s ten-year-old master plan. We are also rebranding the RRTS to be more recognizable and accessible for all, including a new RRTS logo, mapping, signage, and wayfinding.
What’s next for the Red Rock Trail System
One of FLT’s immediate priorities is to connect Red Mountain Park, Railroad Park, and Ruffner Mountain and create a 22-mile trail loop around the Greater Birmingham Area with a special emphasis on the Civil Rights District and connecting downtown Birmingham to its neighboring suburbs. Beyond that, there’s more to come.
Carolyn Buck, Freshwater Land Trust’s Red Rock Trail System Director, has overseen the ever-expanding Red Rock trail network in Jefferson County for the past five years. She is originally from Texas and received a B.S. in Environmental Science from Baylor University.
David Sher is the founder and publisher of ComebackTown. 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 for free about a better Birmingham region.. firstname.lastname@example.org.