The Freshwater Land Trust announced plans for Moon River Canoe Launch on Wednesday morning during a press conference at Bass Pro Shops in Leeds. It is the inaugural recreational site for the Cahaba Blueway announced this spring.
The launch is located on land owned by the land trust where the jurisdictions of Leeds and Irondale meet and can be reached using a newly cleared trail currently accessible via limited roadside parking along eastbound U.S. Highway 78. Construction on the site will start in the fall and the launch is scheduled to open in 2014.
The press conference began with a welcome from the land trust’s executive director, Wendy Jackson. Matt Bowden of Alabama Power followed, expressing the Alabama Power Foundation’s appreciation for participating in and supporting the Blueway; their $30,000 contribution was announced during the event. The mayors of Leeds (David Miller) and Irondale (Tommy Joe Alexander), having grown up in the area, talked about growing up enjoying the Cahaba River and the river camp in addition to talking about their cities joint supervision of the site. Alexander regaled those in attendance with stories of dance halls and young lovers stowing away in nearby cabins.
In a nod to local history, the launch site is named after a former fishing camp popular among locals in the early part of the 20th century. Moon River will serve as a link to the existing Grants Mill and Overton canoe launches once completed. The overall plan for the Cahaba Blueway will tie together trails and river recreation from Leeds to the original state capital of Old Cahawba in Dallas County. The launch will connect to the Red Rock Ridge and Valley Trail system as well.
Attendees were shuttled to the launch site after the press conference. The access trail to the river was recently cleared by area Eagle Scouts and offers an interesting glimpse into the area’s biodiversity.
A multi-partner effort, the Land Trust has partnered with the Cahaba River Society, The Nature Conservancy, and Alabama Innovation Engine to create the Blueway. It is intended to eventually provide a cohesive series of trails and river access that celebrates the diversity of the Cahaba River as well as the rich history of Central Alabama. Funding partners for the project include the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, the Hugh Kaul Foundation, and the Robert R. Meyer Foundation.