According to longtime supporters at Ruffner Mountain, in 2020, more people will have walked the popular and beloved nature preserve’s trails than at any time in its 43 year history.
Likewise, Birmingham’s Red Mountain Park will surpass last year’s attendance of 125,000 visitors with three months to go in the calendar year.
Since March, Railroad Park has welcomed 257,000 visitors and an increase depending on the weather of 100 to 500 people using the park a week (numbers also do not include activities they have moved online)
If we have discovered one thing from this global pandemic for the past 8 months, now more than ever we need nature preserves, parks and green spaces.
Despite record usage numbers at these preserves, the city of Birmingham, faced with a $60 million budget shortfall passed a number of budget cuts impacting our parks and various nonprofits.
Here are the cuts that impact the three “Rs”.
- Ruffner Mountain’s city of Birmingham appropriation was reduced from $225, 000 to $112,000
- Railroad Park funding reduced from $900,000 to $450,000
- Red Mountain Park received $100,000 in 2020. Their funding was zeroed out.
Green Spaces are Essential – Think Regionally
Especially in today’s COVID-19 world, green spaces are essential, Ruffner Mountain’s Executive Director Carlee Sanford told us. She added.
“Today the demand for outdoor experiences, natural escapes and green spaces has never been higher. Public parks and green space are not just ‘nice to have,’ they are essential to a healthy, thriving environment and community. Jefferson County needs more, but first we have to look at how these places are funded.”
Burden on Birmingham
Preserves and parks like Red Mountain Park, Ruffner and Railroad Park and other destinations such as the Zoo are seeking to diversify their funding so that the burden is not all on the city of Birmingham.
Leaders such as Sanford recognize this problem.
“While Ruffner Mountain’s funding was cut by 50%, another way of looking at it is— Birmingham is the only city funding a portion of this wonderful space that impacts residents across Jefferson County.
The real problem we are trying to solve is the need for dedicated, consistent, and sustained funds for the ongoing operations, maintenance, and security of public facilities, trails and green spaces.”
How will that happen? Sanford sees the need to develop a regional strategy that helps fund parks and green spaces, as well as our community’s non-profits.
There is an old Chinese saying – “crisis is opportunity.” Let’s hope the non-profit community dependent on the city of Birmingham funding can develop such a plan. Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, How You Can Help
We know you are reading this article and asking – what can I do NOW to help Ruffner Mountain, Red Mountain Park and Railroad Park.
Here is a quick list from all three organizations.