Development of the Rotary Trail on the derelict, submerged railroad bed that runs along 1st Avenue South between 20th and 24th streets is moving forward, said Bill Jones, the Birmingham Rotary Club’s chairman for the project.
The Rotary Club of Birmingham, which celebrated its centennial on February 6, has been looking for a project that would “make a lasting impact on the city and would make a transformational difference,” said Jones.
The approximately half-mile of the city-owned railroad bed, also known as the “1st Avenue Cut,” would become a newly landscaped walking trail, providing a pedestrian connection of downtown Birmingham between two major points.
“We want to take this really old railroad bed – which is a muddy, graffitied, trashed eyesore – and transform it into a pretty greenway park that will connect Railroad Park and [Regions Field] down to Sloss Furnace,” Jones said. “This trail will open up the areas between these two points and provide a tremendous connection in that developing area.”
In its current state, the Cut is partially flooded and the barrier keeping traffic from falling in is sinking, replaced at some points with concrete Jersey barriers.
According to Jones, a meeting between the project committee and design managers last Thursday concluded with a “mostly finalized” design plan for the trail. He said he expects bidding for construction to go out sometime in April, with actual construction in the fall and completion in 2014.
Though the Freshwater Land Trust, the City of Birmingham and Railroad Park have all backed the project, there are still long-term issues to be discussed.
“The Rotary will fund and design it and oversee construction, but we plan to turn it over to Railroad Park for long-term maintenance and security,” said Jones.
The Rotary is working to raise up to $4 million for the project through membership fundraising and has some access to the TIGER grant, which was acquired in part by the Freshwater Land Trust last year.
The $10 million grant was designated for use by the U.S. Department of Transportation to help rebuild tornado-damaged Pratt City and to enhance roads and walking and biking trails in Jefferson County.
Upon completion, the Rotary Trail will become one section of the envisioned Red Rock Ridge and Valley Trail System, a master plan of seven individual corridors in Jefferson County with over 200 miles of proposed greenways and over 600 miles of bicycle and pedestrian paths.
The Jones Valley Corridor will run over 28 miles from Bessemer to Ruffner Mountain. At least seven individual trails, including the Rotary Trail, will constitute this corridor.
In addition to its work with the new land trail, the Rotary is also celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement by cosponsoring a symposium of events at the Civil Rights Institute in late April, focusing on youth-led civil rights movements. For more information on this symposium, contact the institute at (205) 328-9696.
For more information on the Red Rock Trail system, visit redrocktrail.org.