Greenways, new and proposed, expand walking and biking trail network in Jefferson County

Greenways, new and proposed, expand walking and biking trail network in Jefferson County
A rendering shows a section of the Continental Gin Trail Extension. (contributed)

A plan to create a safe path for walkers and bicyclists to travel over Red Mountain between Birmingham and Homewood is moving forward – the latest development in the steady expansion of Jefferson County’s Red Rock Trail System.

Proposed changes to Richard Arrington Jr. Boulevard connecting Birmingham and Homewood. (ALDOT)

The Alabama Department of Transportation is accepting public comments through March 4 on the proposed greenway and “road diet” project that would create a 12-foot-wide trail along the west side of Richard Arrington Jr. Boulevard from Birmingham’s historic Five Points neighborhood to Valley Avenue, on the northern edge of Homewood. Once complete, the greenway will offer a protected route for pedestrians and bicycle riders to enjoy the scenic, mountainside roadway connecting the two cities.

Greenway proposal for Richard Arrington Jr. Boulevard from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

That’s not all. The greenway would complete a long-envisioned pedestrian-friendly route from downtown Birmingham to Vulcan Park and Museum atop Red Mountain. And it would connect to the Kiwanis Vulcan Trail, which extends west for two miles, along the ridge of Red Mountain, to Green Springs Highway. There, recently completed sidewalks on Green Springs give walkers safe connections to Birmingham’s George Ward Park and to west Homewood.

The greenway project, proposed by the city of Birmingham, also calls for narrowing Richard Arrington Boulevard from four lanes to two with a new center turn lane along the 3,700-foot stretch that climbs to the summit of Red Mountain from downtown Birmingham and Homewood, said Mike Eddington, city engineer and Birmingham’s deputy director of capital projects. He said the city and grant dollars will pay for the project.

Following the public comment period, the project will move into the detailed design phase. The greenway segment is not expected to be under construction until next year at the earliest with the opening tentatively anticipated in 2024.

The project is part of Birmingham’s ongoing push to create more “complete streets” that are designed to help calm traffic while also improving access and mobility for walkers, bicyclists and the disabled, Eddington said.

“It is a very, very important segment,” said Carolyn Buck, Red Rock Trail System director for the nonprofit Freshwater Land Trust, a land and water conservation organization that coordinates development and expansion of the Red Rock among Jefferson County’s many municipalities. Alabama Power and the Alabama Power Foundation are longtime supporters of the Freshwater Land Trust.

Buck said the Land Trust is just weeks away from completing another, long-anticipated greenway extension in central Birmingham. The new section, called the Hugh Kaul Trail, connects downtown’s Rotary Trail to the popular Avondale neighborhood. Although not officially opened, walkers and bikers have already embraced the trail, which will soon extend even farther, to the Continental Gin complex in east Avondale, home to the popular Cahaba Brewing Company. Another feature of the Hugh Kaul trail, a gathering place to be called Sunrise Plaza, is expected to be under construction soon, with the entire project completed before thousands of international visitors arrive in Birmingham for The World Games 2022. Combined, the Rotary and Hugh Kaul trails stretch three miles from downtown Birmingham to east Avondale.

The Freshwater Land Trust is just a few weeks away from completing the Hugh Kaul Trail. (Michael Sznajderman / Alabama NewsCenter)

Buck said the Red Rock Trail System now provides just over 125 miles of greenways and sidewalks across Jefferson County, with an ultimate goal, under the Red Rock master plan, of building and connecting 750 miles of pedestrian-friendly routes throughout the county.

Buck said the Land Trust is working on an update to the master plan to identify the next five to seven priority projects.

A priority for many local trail advocates is creating a safe route linking Red Mountain Park, Railroad Park and Ruffner Mountain nature preserve. Buck said other, potential priority routes include:

  • Linking Birmingham’s civil rights district and the under-construction City Walk BHAM to Railroad Park.
  • Connecting the High Ore Line near Red Mountain Park to the Birmingham Crossplex.
  • Connecting the historic Fourth Avenue Business District to the Smithfield neighborhood, Center Street and “Dynamite Hill” – important locations in Birmingham’s civil rights story.
  • Connecting Red Mountain Park to the Shades Creek Greenway in Homewood, which already connects to Jemison Park in Mountain Brook. Homewood officials are moving ahead on a western extension of the Shades Creek Greenway, into the Wildwood area, which would bring it closer to Red Mountain Park.

“We’re really looking to connect those gaps,” Buck said.

The High Ore Line extension from Red Mountain Park to Birmingham CrossPlex is one of the remaining gaps in the Red Rock Trail System. (Michael Sznajderman / Alabama NewsCenter)

“I think this is a big year,” Buck added, with the opening of the Hugh Kaul Trail in time for the World Games, the Richard Arrington Boulevard greenway gaining steam, as well as the Shades Creek Greenway extension.

Gaps in the Red Rock Trail System are being filled. (file)

“Thanks to the support of the community, we’re really positioning ourselves to build out the next big sections,” Buck said.

To learn more about the Red Rock Trail System, including the current master plan, click here.

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