By Keisa Sharpe-Jefferson
The Birmingham Times
Surrounded by city leaders from Birmingham, Fairfield and Midfield, Congresswoman Terri Sewell on Monday delivered $4 million in federal funds to redevelop and construct a 4.57-mile trail, known as Valley Creek Rails to Trails – a joint recreation and transportation project to impact the West side of Birmingham, including the communities of Midfield, Lipscomb, Brighton and Fairfield.
“By investing in our communities, this funding will uplift underserved communities and foster economic development across our district,” Sewell said. “I know that this project will make a real difference in the lives of people we represent.”
These trail improvements will impact nearly 60,000 residents by providing “better health and better economic opportunities,” Sewell said. “And through this trail, these areas will now have access to amenities such as healthy food, health services and employment opportunities,” she added. Other leaders present were Susan Palmer, Central Park Neighborhood president; Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin; Midfield Mayor Gary Richardson; Fairfield Mayor Eddie Penny and Jefferson County Commissioner Sheila Tyson.
Sewell, who represents Alabama’s 7th Congressional District, made the midday announcement at the head of the Valley Creek Rails to Trails project near Fire Station 20 in the West End/Five Points West community, which sits in Birmingham City Councilor Carol Clarke’s District 8.
“We started celebrating this trail in District 8 well over a year ago with weekly walks just to let people who walk around here know that this trail is coming,” said Clarke. “And we’re going to have a wonderful amenity that not only serves our walking, hiking and biking interests, but also connects us with not just our sister cities to the West, but the whole city.”
Rusha Smith, Executive Director of the Freshwater Land Trust, who was present, said even the projected timeline is 15 years but hopes are to complete it sooner.
“This will be a wonderful extension of the High Orline Trail, so you will be able to go from Red Mountain Park to the Birmingham Crossplex …. This is a 15-year, $40 million plan that will create a 36-mile loop around the Greater Birmingham Metropolitan area,” said Smith. “So, when it’s completed, you’ll be able to go to three of our largest greenspaces – Red Mountain Park, Railroad Park and Ruffner Mountain – all via trail. You can walk or bike that route.”
The connection is critical for several reasons, “it will benefit residents’ health and mental wellness; it will provide alternative transportation without the need for a vehicle; and, it will provide synergy among communities.” Residents will get an opportunity to meet and greet neighbors they wouldn’t encounter if driving, she said.
Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said Sewell has been a major supporter, awarding $80 million in federal grants that [(City of Birmingham] received. And that does not include the almost $10 million in direct appropriations from her office,” said the mayor.
Palmer, Central Park Neighborhood president, said the trail is a part of the framework plan that the Five Points West community voted on and they are excited about what is to come because “being a part of our neighborhood and community gives us a voice in some of the decision-making in the City of Birmingham.”
In addition to the funding for the project in Birmingham, Sewell will join Montgomery city leaders Tuesday, October 31 to announce $4 million dollars she has also secured for the revitalization of homes and neighborhoods in the capital city.
Funding for projects in Birmingham and Montgomery, is part of more than $42.8 million that Sewell secured in the Fiscal Year 2023 federal government funding package for local projects in Alabama’s 7th Congressional District.