After today, it soon will be easier to get access to the Cahaba River, one of the last — and longest — free-flowing rivers in the state.
The Alabama Freshwater Land Trust will announce today that construction will begin in the fall on the Moon River Canoe Launch, located on the river on the border of Irondale and Leeds on US 78. The project is scheduled to be completed by 2014.
The Cahaba, which which winds its way through several central Alabama counties before flowing into the Alabama River near Montgomery, is a Mecca for the canoe and kayak set. It has been named one of the nation’s “eight hotspots of aquatic biodiversity” by the Nature Conservancy.
The Moon River Canoe Launch will be partially funded by the Alabama Power Company.
“We are calling it Moon River after a gas station and dance hall that flourished there in the 1930s,” said Wendy Jackson, executive director the Freshwater Land Trust, a nonprofit organization that acquires, conserves and connects open spaces that are critical for the protection of rivers and streams and that provide recreational opportunities.
The canoe launch will be the first new launch of the Cahaba Blueway, a partnership between the Cahaba River Society, the Nature Conservancy and Alabama Innovation Engine, a collaborative effort of the University and Auburn University.
Beth Stewart, executive director of the Cahaba River Society, said, “The Cahaba is a world-class river, with great potential for more recreation use and tourism.
When public access is well-designed, well-managed and well-known, people in Cahaba watershed communities will have better recreation and economic opportunities that are compatible with the health and beauty of the river and its wildlife.
Freshwater Land Trust’s mission is the acquisition and stewardship of lands that enhance water quality and preserve open space. It is accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, which recognizes it as meeting standards of excellence, upholding the public’s trust and ensuring that conservation efforts are permanent.
The Freshwater Land Trust conserves land in Jefferson, Shelby, Blount, Chilton, Bill, St. Clair, Tuscaloosa and Walker counties.
When the University of Alabama’s Center for Economic Development and Auburn University’s School of Architecture Urban Studio collaborated to create Alabama Innovation Engine, they hoped that it would demonstrate the benefits of non-traditional collaborative efforts to Alabama, said Matt Leavell of Innovation Engine.
The partnerships that are being formed to imagine and develop the Cahaba Blueway as a community asset show that this model of economic cooperation can work.
“We are excited to be a part of the ongoing efforts to expand access and recreation along the Cahaba River,” said John Hudson, president of the Alabama Power Foundation. “This project aligns well with one of the Foundation’s areas of focus: to help preserve and enhance our state’s natural resources for the benefit of all Alabamians.”
Jackson applauded the diverse partners involved in the effort. “We are honored to connect the community based efforts,” she said, “with the vision of the Cahaba Blueway partnership through the establishment of the Moon River Canoe launch. We thank the Alabama Power Foundation for their generous support and commend the cities of Leeds and Irondale for their collaborative spirit. We also thank the Cahaba Blueway partners for their commitment not only to the health of the river but also to the community’s desire to be connected to the river.”
The Cahaba Blueway, once fully developed, is expected to provide multiple public access sites along the entire river for recreational purposes including boat-fishing, canoeing, swimming, bank fishing, hunting, hiking, picnicking and sightseeing.