Rotary Trail (formerly called Line Park) is a pedestrian greenway constructed in 2014 in the railroad cut in the center of 1st Avenue South between 20th and 24th Street South. The project was proposed and largely funded by the Rotary Club of Birmingham.
The Rotary Trail serves as a critical section of the two-mile-long Jones Valley Trail, a component of the Red Rock Ridge & Valley Trail System that provides a continuous recreational path from Railroad Park to 41st Street South in Avondale.
The idea of using the railroad cut for recreation dates back to at least the 1980s. Former Birmingham City Council member Elias Hendricks headed an informal "Save the Cut" movement in response to proposals in the 2004 City Center Master Plan to fill in the below-grade areas and plant trees in the resulting street-level median to create a boulevard on 1st Avenue South. The Central City neighborhood association has organized periodic clean-up days to keep the cut cleared of debris.
The Rotary Club jump-started the project with a $2.5 million commitment to a major public project in recognition of their centennial year. After hearing a presentation from Wendy Jackson of the Freshwater Land Trust on the plans for a comprehensive Red Rock Ridge & Valley Trail System, members voted to tackle a crucial downtown link, called the 1st Avenue South Greenway at the Cut, which forms a part of the Jones Valley Trail extending from the Birmingham Crossplex at Five Points West, through Railroad Park, eastward toward Sloss Furnaces ("Cross to Sloss").
The club hired Jane Ross of Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood to prepare design drawings for a linear park with running paths, benches, landscaping, lighting and other amenities. At the same time, students from Auburn University's Master of Landscape Architecture program participated in an Urban Design Studio focusing on how to re-work the cut as a pedestrian corridor.
As the design developed, Rotarians latched on to the idea of marking the western entrance with a "Magic City sign" that formerly graced 5th Avenue North outside the Birmingham Terminal Station. A 46-foot-tall Stairways will be built to connect the park to street grade below Rainbow Viaduct spanning it at Richard Arrington, Jr Boulevard South. A small amphitheater was constructed at 23rd Street with another entrance way marking the 24th Street end of the trail. The linear park also features solar-powered charging stations for personal electronic devices.
In addition to the major gift from the Rotary Club, the City of Birmingham contributed $2 million from a 2012 federal TIGER grant for drainage, streetscape and infrastructure improvements to enhance the project. Additional large gifts came from the Freshwater Land Trust, the Jefferson County Department of Health, UAB, the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, the Goodrich Foundation, the Susan Mott Webb Foundation, the Alabama Department of Transportation, Alabama Power and CSX.
On June 5, 2020 the Rotary Trail sign was festooned with flowers. The project, initiated by Carolyn Chen of Wild Things, aimed to inspire hope amidst the unease caused by the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic and 2020 George Floyd protests. More than 30 florists who donated materials and labor for the installation.
- Coman, Victoria L. (April 27, 2005) "Central City looks for help to tidy up old railroad cut." The Birmingham News
- Spencer, Thomas (July 4, 2012) "Rotary Club of Birmingham exploring greenway linking Railroad Park and Sloss Furnaces." The Birmingham News
- Tomberlin, Michael (December 29, 2013) "First look: $4.5 million Rotary Trail will extend Railroad Park greenway past 24th Street." The Birmingham News
- Tomberlin, Michael (March 10, 2014) "Rotary Trail could get $3.5 million backing from Birmingham for linear park." The Birmingham News
- Stein, Kelsey (April 3, 2016) "Rotary Trail forged by nostalgia, Birmingham's recent resurgence." The Birmingham News
- Beahm, Anna (June 5, 2020) "Florists decorate Rotary Trail sign with flowers." The Birmingham News