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Inquiring minds want to know… Who’s been clearing all the underbrush alongside Altamont Road beginning at the cannon and ending at the hairpin turn near Altamont School?
Answer: The Birmingham Sunrise Rotary Club
Now the big question… Why?
Move over, Rotary Trail, Kiwanis Centennial Park at Vulcan Park and Railroad Park—these early-rising Rotarians intend to uncover Altamont Park, the 9.6 acres of green space from just left of the cannon to where it turns into Cliff Road, restoring public views of the Magic City’s skyline.
They’ve launched the Altamont Park Reclamation Project.
Birmingham’s lost park
Nearly 100 years ago, Robert Jemison, Jr., the developer of the Redmont Park neighborhood sold the land overlooking the sprawling 1920s metropolis to the city of Birmingham for $64,000.
“Jemison, to his credit, saved some land from his development for the residents of the city,” according to Nathan Marcus, President of the Birmingham Sunrise Rotary Club. He sold it at a deep discount against the wishes of his friends and even got sued for it. But he thought the residents of the city should enjoy the view—it shouldn’t just be for the few.”
Other than a World War I cannon which is continuously vandalized with graffiti and a nice stone overlook, most of the park has been dormant.
“It’s not like there was once a great beautiful park that has been overgrown,” described Norman Jetmundsen, the Birmingham Sunrise Rotary co-chair on the project. There has never been anything there. We’re actually creating something that was envisioned but never happened.”
The Birmingham Sunrise Rotary Club had been seeking a “difference-making” project in Birmingham that would add to recent civic attractions, such as the Downtown Rotary’s popular Rotary Trail.
That is how they discovered Altamont Park.
Beginning in 2019, the Rotarians began generating awareness about the park and securing support from the city, the neighborhood, the Freshwater Land Trust and the Park and Recreation Board.
Video taken by Bham Now’s Pat Byington of the length of Altamont Park. Note at the end the brush that has been collected.
Once they checked those boxes, the club hired Lea Ann MacKnally, a local landscape architect who was instrumental in the design of Railroad Park. In the coming months, they hope to get an initial draft design from MacKnally to engender support for a fundraising campaign on behalf of the park.
Both Marcus and Jetmundsen expressed to Bham Now interest in seeing local art, native plants, historical interpretation (the area along the park has a rich mining history) and environmentally-sensitive landscaping incorporated in the design.
They also recognized the steepness of the property and that special care must be taken to prevent excess stormwater runoff from harming the homes below the park.
Furthermore, the Rotarians welcome neighborhood input and anticipate holding a number of gatherings with the community.
“Our hope is to raise enough money to create a platform for the public to see the incredible view,” added Marcus.
Meanwhile, Rotary members, Boy Scouts throughout the region and their families have taken on the massive job of picking up the litter and removing invasive plants and dead trees along the green space.
The ultimate goal is to have a re-introduction of the park in November 2021. Why then? It will be the 100th anniversary of the park.
Marcus summed up the project best:
“The people who are involved in this project believe in the Rotary motto—“service before self.” There’s no one out in front of this thing trying to put their name on it. We don’t even care if it has our Rotary name on it. We want this for the city.”
To learn more about the Altamont Park reclamation Project visit: https://www.altamontsunrisepark.com. Also feel free to contact the Birmingham Sunrise Rotary Club at: firstname.lastname@example.org