Yesterday evening Katherine Billemeier (Executive Director of the Railroad Park Foundation) took me and a few others on another tour of the Railroad Park, which is now slated to be open Labor Day weekend. Once again, I was dazzled by the promise that this great open space holds.
As it gets closer to completion, there are two things I’m thinking about:
1. The entire community must embrace this place as its own, using its walking paths, picnic grounds, plazas, play areas, lakes, skate bowls, and flower gardens as often as possible.
2. The City must quickly focus on a short and long-term development plan for the surrounding area, so that this massive investment is leveraged as best as possible.
We can’t wait!
From the cobbled bowl above, with central pond to be planted with water reeds and dotted with misting pipes perfect for summer frolicking, to the smartly designed recycling bins, the details continue to be top-notch. The designer Tom Leader (based in California but with an international practice) has managed to create something at once unique and contextual. As I’ve said before, a rare example of the City embracing high standards of modern design–and implementing it.
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The 16th street plaza with the river birches is my favorite part of the park (so far). I’ve been lucky, too, to have had the opportunity be in the park several times over the past 6 months to see it taking shape, and echo your anticipation and call for the City to be forward-thinking in approaching future development around the Park.
It’s like an oasis of calm, a… portal… to jaunt our way back to balance. Nature & Urbanscapes CAN coexist, with thoughtful stewardship.
I don’t know about y’all, but this looks a lot like the future to me.
Thanks! Wish I’d had my better camera with me, but it was an impromptu visit!
A picture is indeed worth a thousand words. These are wonderful.
One reader of the Birmingham paper wrote yesterday that this park project was merely another of Birmingham’s usual disastrous, misguided expenditures. The person referred to the “big mud hole” the News photographed. If his/her opinion was based solely on that one published photograph, it might actually be excused, I suppose, but from these it is clear that our city/county’s inhabitants will soon have new pleasures soon as well as something to be really proud of.
I really think you’re right—once people enter and use this, word should spread. I can’t think of a better guided (rather than misguided) use of funds (by the way, a healthy mix of public AND private funding went into this park). And yes, having the turf down makes for a better picture than the mud!
Nice to see the westernmost pond full of water and banked with plants. As Leader has commented, there are designated play areas but every part of the park invites play: streams, grass banks, bridges, etc. That should help build popularlity.
Indeed one of the most impressive parts of the park is how multi-useful it is: there is programming, but every spot feels like it has lots of option.
This desk jockey is looking forward to lovely lunches in the shade, and maybe a little walk in the evening waiting for the traffic to die down before heading home.
Yes–it was amazing to walk into the park, and you could feel the temperature drop due to the vegetation and water already in place.
The RR Park cannot open soon enough. You probably saw the morning Bham News article about Birmingham ranking near the bottom in a national index of healthiness. The article was about Birmingham’s metropolitan area being ranked 49th in the American College of Sports Medicine’s American Fitness Index. One factor was our parkland and we were way under the average: Parkland as percentage of city land area: Birmingham MSA – 2.6, MSAs average – 10.3.
Beyond other contributions this wonderful new park will make to our community, it also will contribute to a healthier citizenry.
Indeed, Birmingham has historically not invested in parks and open space. With RR Park, Red Mountain Park, and Ruffer Mountain’s expansion, my understanding is Birmingham will go from its current dismal ranking to 1st place nationwide. I hope RR Park’s opening success will catalyze further development of the other two initiatives.
I’m interested in your last sentence, Jeremy – “I hope RR Park’s opening success will catalyze further development of the other two initiatives.” Ruffner Mountain, while it has not had an official grand-opening, is open for business with their new education center, which is fabulous, and has programs for interested patrons nearly every weekend this summer leading up to a fall grand opening. They also have an enthusiastic new executive director, Robbie Fearn.
Red Mountain Park is also moving forward, despite the fact they won’t be open for about 18 more months. However, the work to secure oral histories from miners that worked on Red Mountain has continued to build bridges and create diverse community involvement. Much of the “delay” in that park’s time schedule has to do with security (securing mining sites, etc.) but from the beginning of the Three Parks Initiative, RMP had the longest time horizon for completion of their Phase I.
Your comment led me to believe that there was a feeling the other two parks weren’t moving forward, and I just wanted to share with your readers that there is lots going on with both Ruffner and RMP! Exciting times for the Magic City.
Erin–thank you for clarifying this. Indeed Red Mountain Park has been moving forward, and Ruffner has a brand new education center and plans for further expansion. I had meant to convey that the opening of RR Park will hopefully add to the great momentum that’s already afoot at the two other parks. I appreciate your great comments.
The photo by the News was most unfortunate….taken after a frog strangler that left many city streets under water and many people without power. Would have been much better and more balanced reporting to show the before and after. Do hope that the City (and that means ALL of its citizens) realize what a great place this can become.
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This park is absolutely great. I am glad you stated how much needs to be done to help out with the success of this park. I can not wait to come home from college and be able to visit this beautiful place to catch up with friends.