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Birmingham’s Kiwanis Club has had a visible impact on the city over the past century. Take a look at what they’re doing now to the Vulcan Trial Park.
Birmingham’s Kiwanis Club
As far back as the 1920s, the civic-service club helped establish the look of the downtown area. They hired the sons of the landscape architect who designed New York’s Central Park to create a park system for Birmingham.
Many of those parks remain an integral part of the green fabric of the city. These include East Lake, Linn, Avondale and George Ward, along with the Zoo and Botanical Gardens.
In the 1930s, the Kiwanis Club was instrumental in getting the statue of Vulcan located to its current perch atop Red Mountain, prominently overlooking the city below. Vulcan has become the unmistakable symbol of Birmingham, a familiar figure always standing tall against the skyline.
So in honor of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Kiwanis Club of Birmingham in 1917, club officials pay homage to those past contributions. How? By creating a new park that will be connected to Vulcan Park.
The club which has more than 500 members – making it the largest Kiwanis Club in the world – is holding a groundbreaking ceremony on Friday for the new Kiwanis Centennial Park/Vulcan Trail. The $4 million project that will once again dramatically change the look of the city.
“The city of Birmingham really hadn’t been around that long when we were formed, so we think our history sort of tracks the history of Birmingham,” KCOB President Thomas Thagard III said. “We’re celebrating by giving back to the community, with Kiwanis Centennial Park.
“We solicited ideas from organizations all over Birmingham about what our centennial-year project should be. We knew we wanted to do something special civically. We got about 40 ideas, and ended up going with this one just because we thought it had a bit of magic to it. And because it had such an historical connection to what Kiwanis had done before with regard to the municipal park system in Birmingham and specifically putting Vulcan on Red Mountain.”
The park will be located just off 20th Street South at the base of Vulcan Park, beginning at the paved lot at the top of the hill, which originally was used as a trolley car stop.
There are still crumbling concrete stairs leading from that lot toward Vulcan Park. Actual access to the park was cut off years ago, and that area was not included in the renovation of Vulcan Park in the early 2000s.
The new Kiwanis Centennial Park will reestablish that connection, substantially increasing the overall size of Vulcan Park.
“That part has become completely disconnected (from Vulcan Park),” Thagard said. “It’s overgrown, you can’t really see it, the stairs have fallen apart, and there’s a big fence that prevents walking access to Vulcan Park. So we’re going to landscape that whole area and rebuild the old piazza with a fountain. It will double Vulcan Park’s event space and hopefully increase the revenue potential for the park.”
As part of the project, the Kiwanis Club of Birmingham is working with the Freshwater Land Trust to renovate the overgrown Vulcan Trail. This travels for 2 miles along Red Mountain all the way to Green Springs Highway.
Thagard said once the trail is complete, it can serve as the hub for more than 700 miles of trails. The trail will be part of the Red Rock Ridge and Valley Trail System.
And finally, the most visual transformation of them all will be to the Vulcan statue itself. Thagard said a new computerized LED lighting system will be installed. The technology enabls park officials to light up the statue in a wide variety of ways.
For example, the statue can be colored red-white-and-blue for the Fourth of July and other patriotic events. Even Breast Cancer Awareness Month could be honored.
“We’re trying to make Vulcan Park even more of a tourist attraction, as the iconic image of Birmingham,” Thagard said. “We think this will be something special for Birmingham. The city is on the cusp of a renaissance, and we want this project to be a catalyst to help spur Birmingham forward.”
At least for another 100 years.