Category Archives: Parks

Steam Plant Plaza receives Design Review Committee approval

Design review Sept. image 2Alabama Power received schematic design approval of its plans for the park and plaza surrounding its Powell Avenue Steam Plant from Birmingham’s Design Review Committee on Wednesday morning, allowing for permits to be secured and work to begin. Nelson Byrd Woltz, a firm with offices in Charlottesville, Virginia and New York City, presented the proposed plans for the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham’s former Prize 2 the Future site (a.k.a., Lot D) to the committee, meeting the first time since the cycling accident that claimed the life of committee member and local contractor William Robertson on August 29.

A report on the company’s Alabama Newscenter website (as well as a post to the project’s website) states construction is expected to begin this fall, taking approximately one year to complete. The approval includes streetscape, furniture, and landscaping for the city block located between 18th and 19th Streets along 1st Avenue South.

09092015 Powell Ave DRC Package image

The plaza’s the main entrance, located on the block’s southwest corner, will mimic the Red Mountain Expressway‘s “cut” using limestone and iron ore and matching the berm height of its existing neighbor to the west. Those materials will be used with sandstone to create a seeping fountain. The resulting main plaza could be used as an amphitheater. A scrim fountain will double as a reflecting pool, lining up with the taller of the steam plant’s two smokestacks and serving as the centerpiece of an allée. A water feature will run through a perennial plant garden along the site’s southeastern edge.

The portion of Powell Street passing directly in front of the building, vacated by the city of Birmingham earlier this year, will have bollards installed at its western end. It will still be accessible from 19th Street, providing access to a “food truck grove” and some off-street parking. The plans also call for a small covered pavilion and restrooms. Several sections throughout the site are designated for allowing outdoor dining. A “stack garden” will run along the northern edge of the structure, providing visitors access to a unique, elevated view of the railroad tracks and the surrounding area during business hours.

While a rendering showing an overview of the project site shows a landscaped parking lot along the northern edge of Railroad Park, a representative from the utility stated it was included as conceptual. The site does sit immediately south of the intermodal transit facility currently under construction along Morris Avenue. The plan presented today does call for a reduction of parking along 1st Avenue South – partially to accommodate the allée – though the remaining spaces will remain angled.

UAB and the larger Division I picture (and things to keep in mind about Legion Field)

UAB students watch the announcementAs we watched events unfold alongside students on Tuesday, much of the focus on UAB president Ray Watts’s announcement about the discontinuation of the football, bowling, and rifle teams has focused on UAB being the first NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) school to do so since 1995. It’s important, but it’s necessary to look at the bigger picture in Division I in order to see a larger trend and to find a possible solution.

A review of a list of discontinued football programs shows that UAB is the sixteenth Division I school overall to make the choice in that time period.

Institution State Year discontinued

Current total enrollment

University of the Pacific CA 1995


Boston University MA 1997


University of Evansville IN 1997


California State University, Northridge CA 2001


Canisius College NY 2002


Fairfield University CT 2002


St. John’s University (New York) NY 2002


East Tennessee State University TN 2003


St. Mary’s College of California CA 2003


Siena College NY 2003


St. Peter’s University NJ 2006


La Salle University PA 2007


Iona College NY 2008


Northeastern University MA 2009


Hofstra University NY 2009


University of Alabama at Birmingham AL 2014


The majority of those schools compete in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) with 10 out of 16 located in the Northeast — the place where football was born; three other schools are located in California (including the largest of them, Cal State Northridge with more than 38,000 currently enrolled). It may not seem like it makes sense to talk about the FCS schools until you realize the most recent example of a relaunched program comes from those ranks — East Tennessee State University. As you can see above, the program did close in 2003, but is scheduled for a return next fall. The full explanation is included as part of an editorial over on Dear Birmingham.

Legion Field

Another angle that has received significant attention these last two days is the potential fate of Legion Field. The Football Capital of the South. Realize if all options are on the table, there are two things that need to be remembered.

Legion Field is McLendon Park — the football stadium is located within the largest piece of property dedicated to park use in the city of Birmingham. (Yes, Red Mountain Park is huge, but it’s technically overseen by a state commission; Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve is as its name change states, a preserve, and its managed by a non-profit organization.) If (as unlikely as it should be) considered options include demolition, file away the fact that it means we could see the land transformed into the city’s largest park. This could be seen as a catalytic project for the surrounding blocks.

Non-park use requires a public vote — Yes, it’s true. The property is dedicated for purposes related to parks and recreation. According to the city code, if it is to be used for any other purpose, a public referendum will need to be held and it pass in order for that new type of solution to move forward. The called meeting of the city’s Parks and Recreation board to discuss possible options is currently scheduled for next Monday.

Red Mountain Park opens Kaul Adventure Tower on Saturday

KaulAdventureTowerviewThis photo is from inside the top of Red Mountain Park‘s newest attraction — the Kaul Adventure Tower — just before a ride down via the Mega Zip. (NOTE: It was the author’s first ever trip on a zip line). The visit on November 4 was in advance of the attraction’s formal opening to the public on Saturday, November 8. The ride down from the top of the 80 foot tower means potentially reaching speeds of 30 miles per hour while gliding down 1,300 feet of cable, then returning 300 feet before being brought in to rest on one of the platforms (there are two lines available for use by visitors at this location). The tower also provides eight lanes of simultaneous climbing up or two options (36′ and 72′) of rappelling down its exterior. Climbers can either use traditional holds, mountain laurel, or easily identifiable (and large) leaves to gain footing or enjoy the view.

The project was funded by the Hugh Kaul Foundation, the organization’s most recent contribution to the newest of the facilities included in the Three Parks Initiative several years ago. The foundation is also the namesake for the park’s Hugh Kaul Beanstalk Forest, a ropes and cable course located a short hike from this new attraction. According to the park’s website, the tower can accommodate as many as 24 people at once. It was designed and constructed by Beanstalk Builders, a company based in Morganton, North Carolina. The company was also responsible for the Beanstalk Forest and the Red Ore Zip Tour.

The opening of the tower for use (and reservations) comes on the heels of the recent dedication of Remy’s Dog Park and additional pending announcements about long-planned improvements. Park visitors will pay $30 for 1 hour of climbing and rappelling on the tower and $20 to experience the Mega Zip. They can also partake in both experiences for $50.

VIPs get a sneak peek at Remy’s Dog Park before this Saturday’s official opening

IMG_20140830_102547-MOTIONThere was a lot of celebratory barking at Red Mountain Park on Saturday, August 30, as VIPs and volunteers got a sneak peek at Remy’s Dog Park. (It was the latest to be granted, though probably one of the largest; accompanied Pig to a sneak preview of the park in early August.) The space will open to the public this coming Saturday at  8 a.m., with an official ribbon cutting taking place at 11 a.m. featuring remarks from local auctioneer and philanthropist Ken Jackson (that’s the guy you see in the GIF accompanying this post talking to attendees) and Birmingham Mayor William Bell.

Last summer Jackson contributed $200,000 (via a donor-advised fund at the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham) towards construction of the 6-acre dog park. It is named for his late Jack Russell-Shih Tzu mix and has designated areas for large, small, and special needs dogs. Park officials report more than 750 volunteer hours have been contributed towards getting the land cleared for the installation.

The park will open at 9 a.m. on September 6, with the ribbon cutting taking place at 11 a.m. Click here to view an image of the sign that goes over the park’s rules. The park will be closed to the public on Wednesday mornings in order to perform maintenance and repairs. There are several naming opportunities still available throughout the space, including pet waste stations (20 @ $2,500 each) and one of the three unclaimed for a pavilion (@ $25,000 each).

Ruffner Mountain gets a new director, conducts online survey

stanwebTucked into Weld publisher Mark Kelly’s Red Dirt column this week was a nugget to which few people paid a great deal of attention – the naming of a new executive director for the 1,000+ acre nature preserve located on the city’s east side. A visit to Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve’s website (specifically the page listing its staff) shows Stan Palla listed as holding the position. Palla has previously served as the executive director of Alabama Bicycle Coalition.

Kimberly Jeanty, who served as the organization’s interim executive director since last fall, remains on staff as its director of marketing and development. The hire ends a search that started when Robbie Fearn left to become the director of the Pine Island Sanctuary and Center in Corolla, North Carolina.

Ruffner Mountain has also made a simple three-question survey available online via SurveyMonkey, using it as an opportunity to announce Palla’s hire via their fan page on Facebook on July 31.

Photo: via

Moon River Canoe Launch announced

canoeswaitingatlaunchThe 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.


Glen Iris Neighborhood endorses plans for skatepark in George Ward Park

07012013JulyskateparkmtgThis month the Glen Iris Neighborhood Association drew its highest attendance ever for a single meeting. Monday, July 1, saw nearly 100 people gathered at St. Elias Maronite Church to hear what residents had to say about a potential skate park at George Ward Park. The neighborhood association had tabled discussion about the project at their May meeting until further research could be investigated.

The meeting started 20 minutes late and initially focused on the regular business of the neighborhood. Cris Worley from the A.Skate Foundation was introduced, after which association vice president Michael Gray explained that audience members’ comments would be limited to two minutes. Worley was then given the floor and she addressed misinformation recently circulated around the neighborhood, the A.Skate Foundation and its programs, and how skateboarding is neurologically beneficial to autistic children.

Peter Karvonen, owner of Faith Skate Supply, talked about the 3,500 skateparks that have been constructed throughout the country the past six years. He also related the history of the old Vestavia Hills skatepark. A third speaker, criminologist Christy Ivy, addressed the concerns from a crime and constructive policy angle.

All three speakers defended skaters from the stereotypes most recently perpetuated by a flyer circulating around the city, addressing such things as potential noise issues, the look of the park, and those perceiving skateboarders as “thugs on drugs.”

The majority of speakers from the audience were overwhelmingly supportive of the skatepark. A few naysayers voiced their opinions as well. To everyone’s credit, the discussion remained civil and engaging.

Many Glen Iris residents spoke of appreciating the diversity in the neighborhood. Others explained how, although they were not interested in skateboarding, it should not stop others from enjoying the activity. A local architect urged his fellow residents to stop the “what if” debates and work on Birmingham being “first” with something rather than always last. A 40-year resident of the neighborhood reminded people of how disconnected to reality it seems when they approve land for use by dogs but are considering refusing it to a use by people.

After the discussion, a motion was made to approve the skatepark at the triangular site in the northwest corner of the park. Glen Iris residents were asked to stand and raise their right hand to vote in favor of the skatepark. The motion passed 52 – 9 (with one abstention), thus clearing a major hurdle for the skatepark plans to move forward.

Additional items discussed at the meeting:

  • City councilor Valerie Abbott reminded everyone about a meeting in Jasper called by the Black Warrior Riverkeeper on July 9 to discuss strip mining along the river. (Those opposed to the mining but unable to attend the Jasper meeting can contact the Alabama Surface Mining Commission in Montgomery).
  • UAB is instituting a campus public transit system where students and employees can ride for free.