New section of bicycle-walking trail will help connect Railroad Park and Red Mountain Park

Published: Nov. 10, 2015 at 1:22 AM CST|Updated: Nov. 18, 2015 at 8:34 PM CST
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The pink line represents the new High Ore Trail that will connect Red Mountain Park with...
The pink line represents the new High Ore Trail that will connect Red Mountain Park with Railroad Park. (Source: WBRC)

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - If you don't believe Birmingham is rolling toward becoming a more bike-friendly city at a pretty good clip - and that that's a good thing - ask the Harris family of Midfield.

After discovering the Enon Ridge Trail during Ride United in September, Clarence Harris brought his wife to the trail just two days later. Clarence appreciated the opportunity to ride with his wife Yvonne, known as Kizzy, on an off-street trail where she felt safe and could concentrate on experiencing what her bike could do.

"This is only my second ride out," said Kizzy. "I felt safer being on the trail," she added, mentioning some of the trail has LED lighting.

The Enon Ridge Trail, part of the Red Rock's Civil Rights Trail that winds past civil rights landmarks downtown, starts behind Parker High School and follows an old streetcar line to East Thomas Park.

It's part of the system that the Freshwater Land Trust is laying out over the metro area with the help of a $10 million federal gr ant awarded to Birmingham three years ago. Several other public and private entities contributed $5 million in matching funds.

The Red Rock Ridge and Valley Trail System has a master plan that includes trails crisscrossing all over Jefferson County. The overall goal of the project is twofold: as the trail system grows, so does residents' mobility and opportunities to get outside and be healthy.

However, a highly-anticipated piece of the system should open early next year. The High Ore Line will connect Jefferson County's new Midfield Health Center on Bessemer Superhighway to Wenonah Road three miles to the south over an elevated track donated by U.S. Steel. The trail ends at Vulcan Materials, which has agreed to donate property for Birmingham to extend the trail to a new entrance to Red Mountain Park. Construction has yet to start on that leg or another section of the trail that will connect the High Ore Line to Birmingham's CrossPlex.

But that's not all, according to Wendy Jackson with the Freshwater Land Trust.

"We are working to connect Railroad Park to the CrossPlex all the way to Red Mountain Park. Its a combination of street-based connections that will go past Princeton Hospital and carry you with bike lanes and sidewalks all the way to the Crossplex," she said.

The path is an old railway corridor Jackson says was donated by CSX Railroad. Jackson says one of the benefits of the trail system is the way it is giving our fragmented metro area together around something that can benefit everyone.

She call's Birmingham's Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) gr ant application a "great example" of the city working together with the private sector and the Jefferson County Health Department.

About $1 million for the High Ore Line came from the health department, which might surprise some, according to Environmental Health Officer Barbara Newman.

"They don't think of a health department as being a place that encourages physical activity which can prevent chronic health disparities, especially diabetes and obesity. So we're taking a proactive role to work with other agencies and work with other partners to make our built environment a better place where we can walk, bike, run," Newman said.

Newman, excited about her new Zyp BikeShare membership that will let her use the rental bikes now stationed outside her office by UAB, says the department also plans to work with the UAB School of Public Health to try to gauge use of the Hi Line and resulting health benefits to the community.

Kizzy Harris doesn't need a study to explain the benefits of cycling. She says she and Clarence don't far from the new trail coming to Midfield and appreciates the them as more inducements for her husband to continue the running and cycling that have helped him to shed dozens of pounds over the last two years.

"The cycling for my husband is awesome. I am so proud of him riding and that's the reason I'm out here today," Kizzy said.

Clarence seems excited not only about trials that let him practice sprinting or ride with his wife, but the direction he believes the metro is rolling in.

"Birmingham has created something for joggers and riders that's going to be real key in the city's movement," Clarence said.

If you'd like to learn more about the trail system and keep up with their progress, visit Hint: When you zoom in far enough to see the trail markers, take note that the markers outlined in black are proposed trails. Solid red markers are existing trails.

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