CIVIL RIGHTS TRAIL EXTENSION EXPANDS RED ROCK RIDGE AND VALLEY TRAIL SYSTEM
The Freshwater Land Trust and the Red Rock Ridge and Valley Trail System will host a ribbon cutting ceremony with the City of Birmingham unveiling an extension of the Civil Rights Trail from downtown Birmingham to include portions of the Smithfield, East Thomas and Enon Ridge neighborhoods. This latest segment of the trail is part of the Red Rock Ridge and Valley Trail System and includes new sidewalks, bike lanes, educational Civil Rights Movement signage, and a one-mile trail along a historic streetcar line. The ceremony will take place at the Smithfield Library on March 8 at 2pm and will highlight the first completed segment of more than 29 miles of trails to be completed under a federal grant from the Department of Transportation.
The Civil Rights Trail extension will provide more than four miles of connections between downtown Birmingham and neighborhoods that played an important role in the Civil Rights Movement. Educational signs line both sides of Center Street, a main road included in the extension of the trail and an area that once served as the dividing line between white and African-American neighborhoods.
“We are excited with the plan and use of green space and walking trails for a number of reasons,” Mayor William Bell. “The walking trails will join neighborhoods together and cultivate physical activity that will create healthier communities with designed accommodations and accessibility for both automobiles, pedestrian and bicycle access.
“The civil rights trail connects us all while providing education and exercise,” City Councilor Marcus Lundy. “This transformative project reinforces community pride and makes the neighborhoods along the trail a landmark destination for residents and visitors for years to come.”
The Red Rock Ridge and Valley Trail System is a proposed network of more than 750 miles of trails, bike lanes and sidewalks that will connect communities throughout Jefferson County in an effort to increase active and healthy living.
In addition to the City of Birmingham, funders of the project include the Jefferson County Department of Health (JCDH), Alabama Department of Transportation, Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, Freshwater Land Trust, CSX Corporation, Mike and Gillian Goodrich Foundation, UAB, Susan Mott Webb Charitable Trust and Alabama Power.
The Jefferson County Department of Health funded the creation of the Red Rock Ridge and Valley Trail System plan and continues to support implementation in order to provide communities with safe, accessible places to engage in physical activity.
“This trail represents an important step toward our vision for ‘A Healthy Community of Healthy People in a Healthy Environment’ and our goal to make spaces for exercise easily accessible to ALL residents of Jefferson County,” JCDH Health Officer and Chief Executive Mark E. Wilson, MD. “Trails like this are great places for us all to come together as neighbors, and that’s what I hope we will see here. Once the momentum gets going, we will start to see a positive return on our investment with multiple health and socioeconomic benefits.”
In addition to financially supporting the creation of the trail, the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham also helped to coordinate the local fundraising effort.
“These trails are a great testament to what can happen when people come together – community leaders, donors, advocates, officials, and many more,” CFGB Senior Program Officer Gus Heard-Hughes. “The Community Foundation is excited to be part of this collective progress toward connecting communities through sidewalks, bike lanes, and greenways.”
The Freshwater Land trust also played a role in extending the popular Civil Rights Trail from downtown into nearby neighborhoods through their efforts involved with the Red Rock Ridge and Valley Trail System.
“The goal of the Red Rock Ridge and Valley Trail System is to connect communities, while also connecting people to the places they want to go,” Freshwater Land Trust Executive Director Wendy Jackson. “This project helps connect neighborhoods to downtown, while also providing sidewalks, bike lanes and trails that provide safe connections to churches, schools, libraries and parks. People want areas where they can safely walk or bike to get to the places they care about, and this project provides these meaningful connections.”
The public is invited to run, bike, or walk the new segment of the Civil Rights Trail immediately after the ribbon cutting ceremony.