Red Mountain Park

On Jan­u­ary 28, 2005, the Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust and U.S. Steel announced one of the largest urban con­ser­va­tion efforts in Alabama’s his­tory. The Land Trust nego­ti­ated a two-year option from U.S. Steel to pur­chase the 1,108-acre Red Moun­tain Park in Birmingham.

This land, val­ued at $16.5 mil­lion, was optioned for two years at the dis­counted price of $7 mil­lion. Upon com­ple­tion of the land pur­chase, U.S. Steel pledged an addi­tional $1 mil­lion in cash for the devel­op­ment of park ameni­ties. The prop­erty pro­vides the oppor­tu­nity to con­nect a 64-mile net­work of green­ways that would allow a per­son to bicy­cle from Besse­mer to Moun­tain Brook with­out ever encoun­ter­ing vehic­u­lar traffic.

This project is the largest phil­an­thropic gift in U.S. Steel’s 100-year his­tory. It is antic­i­pated the park could eas­ily attract a mil­lion vis­i­tors a year to our community.

To help the Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust make Red Moun­tain Park a real­ity, in 2005 the Red Moun­tain Park Steer­ing Com­mit­tee was cre­ated. The Com­mit­tee was made up of com­mu­nity lead­ers includ­ing may­ors and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of towns sur­round­ing Birm­ing­ham as well as rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Regional Cham­ber of Com­merce, the Alabama Depart­ment of Labor, the Vul­can Park Foun­da­tion, area busi­nesses, the Auburn Cen­ter for Archi­tec­ture and Urban Stud­ies, and the Birm­ing­ham His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety.

The Park’s First Funders

The Hugh Kaul Foun­da­tion was the park’s first major fun­der. The Foun­da­tion gave the Land Trust $100,000 to estab­lish the Red Moun­tain Park Fund that was held at the Com­mu­nity Foun­da­tion of Greater Birm­ing­ham. This fund was estab­lished to demon­strate crit­i­cal pri­vate sec­tor sup­port for the project, pro­vide match for fed­eral fund­ing, chal­lenge oth­ers to con­tribute, and to allow the Steer­ing Com­mit­tee to develop a com­pre­hen­sive mas­ter plan for the park. Thou­sands of dol­lars in donations—mostly in incre­ments of $25 and $50– were made by indi­vid­u­als excited about the pos­si­bil­ity of Red Moun­tain Park.

In 2005, Red Moun­tain Park received a huge boost when the Jef­fer­son County Com­mis­sion pledged $4 mil­lion for Red Moun­tain Park prop­erty pur­chase and park devel­op­ment. Then, in Sep­tem­ber of 2005, the Com­mu­nity Foun­da­tion of Greater Birm­ing­ham awarded $75,000 from its grant­mak­ing funds to the Land Trust for the devel­op­ment of the Red Moun­tain Park Mas­ter Plan. This gen­er­ous gift allowed the Steer­ing Com­mit­tee to hire a nation­ally known land­scape archi­tect, Wal­lace Roberts and Todd from Philadel­phia, Penn­syl­va­nia. The firm made their first of many vis­its to Birm­ing­ham in June 2006. Pub­lic meet­ings were incor­po­rated into the plan­ning process to receive pub­lic feed­back on pro­posed Park ameni­ties. The draft Mas­ter Plan was final­ized in Jan­u­ary of 2007.

The Alabama Power Foun­da­tion awarded the Land Trust $40,000 in April of 2006 to develop an eco­nomic impact study. This exten­sive study, con­ducted by Con­sul­tE­con in Mass­a­chu­setts, was vital to help us tell the com­mu­nity and other fun­ders of what the eco­nomic impact of Red Moun­tain Park would be to the Greater Birm­ing­ham area and the state of Alabama. Red Moun­tain Park will gen­er­ate mil­lions in total eco­nomic activ­ity, job cre­ation, and earnings.

Our sen­a­tors and rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Wash­ing­ton helped make Red Moun­tain Park a real­ity. $2.5 mil­lion in fed­eral fund­ing was secured through the incred­i­ble efforts of Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Artur Davis, Sen­a­tor Jeff Ses­sions, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Spencer Bachus, and Sen­a­tor Richard Shelby.

In 2006, lead­ers at the Com­mu­nity Foun­da­tion of Greater Birm­ing­ham and Region 2020 rec­og­nized that the cre­ation of Red Moun­tain Park along with Rail­road Park and the expan­sion of Ruffner Moun­tain Nature Cen­ter would make Birm­ing­ham a leader in parks and open space. They started the Three Parks Ini­tia­tive to raise money from area phil­an­thropic foun­da­tions and busi­nesses for these three parks.

Their incred­i­bly suc­cess­ful efforts and gen­eros­ity of area busi­nesses, foun­da­tions and indi­vid­u­als resulted in over $15 mil­lion for the three parks. This com­mu­nity effort and sup­port was vital to the cre­ation of Red Moun­tain Park.

The Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust thanks the vision of these early fun­ders to Red Moun­tain Park, who saw early on what Red Moun­tain Park will become.

Cre­ation of the Friends of Red Moun­tain Park

From a desire to see Red Moun­tain Park become a real­ity, John Cobbs, a local triath­lete and web designer, cre­ated the Friends of Red Moun­tain Park soon after the project was announced. This group quickly grew to thou­sands of mem­bers through word-of-mouth adver­tise­ment only. Not only did he cre­ate a ter­rific web­site (www.friendsofredmountainpark.org) to keep the pub­lic informed about Red Moun­tain Park’s progress, but his group is an incred­i­bly valu­able exten­sion of the Red Moun­tain Park effort today. The cre­ation of the Friends of Red Moun­tain Park is an excel­lent exam­ple of how com­mu­nity sup­port is vital to the cre­ation of a com­mu­nity park!

Cur­rent Park Own­er­ship and Management

On April 17, 2006, the last day of that year’s leg­isla­tive ses­sion, Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Paul DeMarco and Merika Cole­man and Sen­a­tors Rodger Smither­man and Jabo Wag­goner helped us pass a state bill that cre­ated the 15-member Red Moun­tain Green­way and Recre­ational Area Com­mis­sion. This Com­mis­sion owns, man­ages, and oper­ates Red Moun­tain Park. Gov­er­nor Bob Riley signed the bill into law on April 21, 2006.

Today, the Fresh­wa­ter Land Trust is involved in Red Moun­tain Park’s progress, and we are enthu­si­as­tic sup­port­ers of its man­age­ment. We are incred­i­bly proud of our efforts to cre­ate Red Moun­tain Park, and we thank U.S. Steel for giv­ing us the oppor­tu­nity to make it hap­pen. To see what’s hap­pen­ing today at Red Moun­tain Park, please visit www.redmountainpark.org.