Robert Jemison Jr Park is a 54-acre linear public park following the stream banks of Watkins Brook and Shades Creek in Mountain Brook. It is named in honor of real estate developer and founder of Mountain Brook Robert Jemison Jr.
Jemison and his landscape architects William Kessler and Warren Manning, reserved the streamside easements to showcase the natural beauty of the landscape and to serve as a buffers against flooding of developed sites. The native flora, highlighted in Jemison Company literature, was kept in place, if occasionally "improved" with new plantings. The primeval appeal of the easements, however, were marred by sporadic wildfires and the installation of a sewer main. Nevertheless, the area held enduring value for its natural appearance and recreational use. After Mountain Brook was incorporated in 1942 the property was transferred to the city for free, with the understanding that it would be dedicated in the future as a public park.
The original Jemison Park was a small area enclosed by split cedar rail fences alongside Culver Road behind Mountain Brook Village. It was planned by the Mountain Brook Garden Club and dedicated on April 23, 1950. In accordance with Jemison's wishes, the creek bank was not regraded or landscaped, but left "as God made it".
The park was soon expanded to include areas the "natural easements" extending down Watkins Brook and up Shades Creek, passing the "Old Mill" and paralleling Mountain Brook Parkway as far as Beechwood Road and the golf course at the Mountain Brook Club. The public dedication of the entire 54-acre area as "Robert Jemison Jr Park" was approved by the Mountain Brook City Council on October 6, 1952 and a highway marker was installed at the confluence of the creeks.
A "Friends of Jemison Park" group was formed in 1973 with Thomas Carruthers as president. They organized to oppose a move by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to straighten and "channelize" Shades Creek, and to lobby the city and raise funds for enlarging and improving the park.
The 1-mile long main paved trail connects with a 0.6-mile "Nature Trail", built as a service project by Boy Scout Ben Webster, and the 0.4-mile "Watkins Trace Trail" leading toward Mountain Brook Elementary School.
- "Garden club arranging for Jemison Park dedication" (January 16, 1950) The Birmingham News - via Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections
- Truchon, Frank (March 28, 1973) "Tentative plans made by group to preserve Jemison Park's beauty" The Birmingham News - via Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections
- Friends of Jemison Park website