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Railroading a new park into Birmingham

8 July 2005

Don’t be deceived by the title of this posting. I’m not suggesting that the new Railroad Reservation Park is being railroaded past anyone. Quite the contrary.

I attended a public hearing last night held by the City of Birmingham with the design team behind Birmingham’s new “central park.” Renowned landscape architect, Tom Leader (check out his website), presented his latest design for this landmark space in Birmingham’s central city. Needless to say, I was VERY IMPRESSED. One comment made by another attendee last night was that he seems to have addressed everyone’s needs and that, my friends, is no small feat in this town. Another friend Vickii lamented the lack of a tennis courts in the 14 acre park space, but that’s the only shortcoming I heard uttered. She’s posted her thoughts about the park over on the Catalyst Blog.

To me, the most exciting (and intriguing) new aspect of the plan is an elevated bike/walk-way along the railroad’s edge. Suspended about 12′ in the air along the length of the park, the bikeway will allow riders to literally “rise above” the city streets and will eventually extend all the way to the Sloss Furnaces. Tom Leader’s design includes stairway access at each north/south street and intermittent “at grade” access points where mounds will be built up allowing cyclists (and stroller-pushing parents, among others) to access the trail without dismounting.

Oddly enough, the land to the NORTH of the railroad is where the most action was at one time, complete with a roundhouse and switching yard. For a nice history of the area, see and the 2nd page (high-res images may load slowly depending on the speed of your connection). The second webpage shows the 4 city block space targeted for the park clearly vacant, but comparing it to the map of yesteryear shows a limited amount of activity at the location.

Perhaps the only discouraging comment made last night was the feeling that this is a two to five year project. I agree with one attendee that it’d be great to somehow start today! I, for one, expect that my family will be regular users of the parkspace.

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