Red Mountain Park

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This article is about the current recreational park. For other uses, see Red Mountain Park (disambiguation).
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Red Mountain Park is a proposed 1,108-acre nature park on 4.5 miles of the western section of Red Mountain in Jefferson County. The location of the park may serve as a connector to a 64-mile network of greenways also under development. The overall scheme of linear parks along streambeds and ridges is similar to a 1924 design for A System of Parks for Birmingham by the Olmsted Brothers.

The property on which the park is being developed was previously owned by U. S. Steel, and was the site of the Wenonah and Ishkooda ore mines. Those mines were active for 108 years, the last closing in 1971. Thousands of black and white workers pulled an estimated 305 million tons of iron ore out of the ground at the site. On January 28, 2005 the Freshwater Land Trust announced that they were raising funds to purchase the property for $7 million and hoped to raise $30 to 40 million for development of the park. U. S. Steel pledged $1 million in development funds once the land was purchased, for nearly $9.5 million less than its appraised value. The net $10.5 million gift is the largest contribution ever made by the corporation. The Friends of Red Mountain Park were formed to coordinate development.

In late 2004 conceptual planning for the site indicated a potential for as many as 16 soccer/football fields, 5 softball/baseball fields, a 20-acre artificial lake, an open-air exhibit venue, several scenic overlooks, a meadow, 18 miles of bicycling and hiking trails and access to historical mine sites.

In 2005 the Jefferson County Commission committed to contributing $7 million over 6 years to purchase the property and develop the park. After the 2006 election, however, the incoming commission balked at the promised amount. After negotiations with the Red Mountain Park Commission the county agreed on July 3, 2007 to make a single lump-sum contribution of $4.5 million.

Commission

Swinging bridge

In 2006 the Alabama legislature designated the project as part of the Alabama State Parks system and created the Red Mountain Greenway and Recreational Commission with the duty "to own, preserve, restore, maintain and promote the park." The commission did not form in time to execute the purchase by the December 31, 2006 deadline, so it was extended by one month by agreement with U. S. Steel. On January 15, 2007, the 15-member commission only had seven members, two short of the quorum needed to complete the purchase. At the January 23 presentation of the final draft of the park's master plan, the commission pledged to make the purchase, even though fundraising would still be needed to carry it through.

Philadelphia landscape architects Wallace, Roberts & Todd were contracted, with local associates Barge, Waggoner, Sumner and Cannon, to conduct stakeholder meetings and further develop design plans. The 2007 master plans schematics show 18 miles of trails looping around the park and including a ridgetop trail through the center and a rugged "challenge trail". These trails would eventually connect to Vulcan Trail and the Shades Creek Greenway. Other amenities envisioned in the master plan include ball fields, historical exhibits, picnic areas, and potentially lakes or fountains. Vehicle and pedestrian entrances would eventually be opened on all sides of the park, allowing it to serve as a connector between western communities. At the beginning, the primary entrance would be on Venice Road on the southeast corner.

Fund-raising for the realization of Red Mountain Park's master plan is being coordinated as a "parknership" with the campaigns to create the Railroad Park and expand Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve. Together, the three parks would give residents of Birmingham more public green space than those of any other American city.

At the January 23 meeting, responsibility for the park was symbolically handed over to the commission in the form of a chunk of iron ore given to members by the Freshwater Land Trust. By the end of 2007 the purchase price for the land had been raised and efforts were continuing to raise development funds. In January 2008 U. S. Senator Jeff Sessions presented $1 million in federal funding for the development of the project. The majority of the land was purchased in March. Public tours of the property were given during the summer of 2008, beginning on May 18.

On July 29, 2008 the Birmingham City Council approved the dedication of a critical 71½ acre parcel of city-owned property to the park commission. That August the commission agreed to buy a 100-foot-wide strip of property that would extend the park's greenway 2.5 miles west, connecting to a planned park in Midfield. That fall David Dionne, former director of parks for Anne Arundel County, Maryland, arrived in Birmingham to serve as the park's executive director.

On September 28, 2009, U. S. Steel and Birmingham announced a land swap that donated an additional 50-60 acres to the park. The donated land included Oxmoor Furnace Cemetery and Mount Olive Church Cemetery, which contain the remains of U. S. Steel miners and their families. In addition, U. S. Steel received 11 acres of city property that their property surrounded and the city received 3.7 acres it had been leasing from U. S. Steel for Missifield Park.

Development

Rendering of the proposed "Redding Lake" near the park entrance

In advance of major construction, numerous work projects were carried out to begin bringing invasive plants such as privet and kudzu under control, to blaze walking trails, and to conduct industrial archeological research. The primary digs were planned for the area which is to be flooded by the park's artificial lake.

Planners, given free rein to imagine a full-featured park, came up with about $80 million worth of desired improvements which could take decades to implement. The first priorities include an access road from Lakeshore Parkway (estimated at $3.8 million), parking areas and picnic pavilions, a 22-acre artificial lake, 46 acres of open meadow, and a handicap-accessible hard surface loop trail. Additional early developments included adventure courses (climbing towers, zip lines, etc) and additional unpaved trails with interpretive signage.

In January 2012 a $100,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration's Recreational Trails Grant Program, administered by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, was announced. The funds were applied to the completion of 10 miles of public trails on the eastern end of the park.

In June 2013 the park received a $200,000 grant from a donor advised fund at the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham to create "Remy's Dog Park", a 6-acre off-leash dog park with spaces for large, small and special-needs dogs to play. The dog park was dedicated on September 6, 2014.

Mining sites

References

  • Bouma, Katherine (January 28, 2005) "U.S. Steel gives for large park Offers $1 million, land discount for plan." Birmingham News
  • Bouma, Katherine (May 14, 2006) "3 New Urban Parks May Make City Greenest." Birmingham News
  • Brown, Melissa (March 15, 2006) "Bobby Humphrey, Wendy Jackson, & John Cobbs: Red Mountain Park" Portico
  • Jordan, Phillip (May 18, 2006) "A bridge across the Great Divide: The promise of Red Mountain Park." Birmingham Weekly
  • Jordan, Phillip (January 11, 2007) "It's not about the money." Birmingham Weekly
  • Bouma, Katherine (January 24, 2007) "Park called `a reality' although funds short." Birmingham News
  • Wright, Barnett (July 4, 2007) "Park to get part of promised money." Birmingham News
  • Bouma, Katherine (January 31, 2008) "Sen. Jeff Sessions to deliver $1 million on Friday for Red Mountain Park." Birmingham News
  • Bouma, Katherine (May 14, 2008) "First tours to be held of 1,100 acre Red Mountain Park Sunday." Birmingham News
  • Cooper, Lauren B. (September 28, 2009) "Birmingham, U.S. Steel donate land for Red Mnt. Park" Birmingham Business Journal
  • "Red Mountain Park, Birmingham and U.S. Steel Make Historic Land Swap." (September, 28, 2009) ABC 33/40. Accessed[1] September 30, 2009.
  • Spencer, Thomas (September 29, 2009) "Red Mountain Park to add 50 more acres." Birmingham News
  • Spencer, Thomas (October 15, 2010) "Red Mountain Park in Birmingham offering monthly hikes." Birmingham News
  • Crowe, Christina (November 25, 2010) "From the Ground Up: Mining a rich vein of history to create the new Red Mountain Park" Black & White
  • Spencer, Thomas (December 27, 2010) "Red Mountain park project seeks funds for 'city view'." Birmingham News
  • Spencer, Thomas (January 5, 2010) "Proposed Red Mountain Park's impact on Birmingham explored." Birmingham News
  • Tomberlin, Michael (March 11, 2011) "Red Mountain Park: Future gold mine; study finds $22.4M in annual economic impact." Birmingham News

External links