The nonprofit Freshwater Land Trust announced today its donation of 53 acres of land to Red Mountain Park. The land, located four miles to the west of the park, includes the historic Raimund mines, a major source of iron ore for mills in Birmingham and across the United States from 1896 through the closing of the mines in 1960. Officials of both organizations said the gift’s significance goes beyond just expanding the footprint of the 1,200-acre park.
“It’s significant because for a hundred years, 10 percent of the iron ore for America came out of that 10-mile stretch of the mountain,” says David Dionne, executive director of Red Mountain Park. “That iron ore helped fuel America’s recovery from the Civil War and our Industrial Revolution, and it helped the United States win the Second World War.”
The Raimund mines were owned and operated by Republic Steel, one of the four major ironmakers in the Birmingham district, along with the Woodward Iron Company, Sloss-Sheffield Steel and Iron Company, and the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company (TCI). Red Mountain Park has already acquired former Woodward and TCI properties; with the addition of the Raimund land and ongoing discussions regarding former Sloss mines currently underway, Dionne is hopeful of preserving mines from each of the “Big Four.” Dionne says that while there are no plans at present for the area beyond preservation, acquisitions such as this to Red Mountain Park are important for the future development of what he calls an “urban signature park.”
“The park is going to have lots and lots of positive impact on the economy, tourism, quality of life, property values, all kinds of different things,” Dionne said. “Even if we don’t do anything with [these properties] for 20 years, we need to preserve them right now.”
Wendy Jackson, executive director of the Freshwater Land Trust, noted that announcement of the expansion of Red Mountain Park comes during the City of Birmingham’s Empowerment Week, part of the yearlong commemoration of the pivotal Civil Rights Movement events that took place in Birmingham in 1963. Jackson said the timing is powerful, yet another way of connecting the city’s past to its present and future.
“We think it’s fitting to make this announcement during this week of reflection in our community,” said Jackson. “The mines and mills were where Birmingham’s African American citizens began to make progress toward economic equality, and Red Mountain Park is the place where the full story of Birmingham’s industrial heritage is told, and where it is connected to our cultural history.”
Freshwater Land Trust is a local nonprofit dedicated to the environmental and communitarian preservation of rivers in Jefferson, Shelby, Blount, Chilton, Bibb, St. Clair, Tuscaloosa and Walker Counties. Located in the southwest corner of Birmingham, Red Mountain Park is a free natural resource full of trails and scenic views of the Magic City.
The featured image for this post was shot by Dr. Jennifer Layton.