Red Rock Action Plan to build a Greater Birmingham Trail Loop is unveiled by Freshwater Land Trust


Freshwater Land Trust
Hugh Kaul Trail (Freshwater Land Trust/©Bob Farley, All Rights Reserved.)

It has always been the mission of the Freshwater Land Trust (FLT) to bring a trail or greenspace to within one mile of every home in Jefferson County.  

With the release of the new Red Rock Action Plan, our community now has a pathway toward reaching that ambitious goal. 

Read on to learn more about the plan and how you can get involved. 

New Plan—Greater Birmingham Trail Loop

Action Plan
(Freshwater Land Trust)

The focus of the new Red Rock Action Plan calls for building a 36-mile connected loop of trails over the next 15 years that achieves a Greater Birmingham Trail Loop. 

“Connectivity is key,” explained Carolyn Buck, FLT’s Red Rock Trail System Director. 

“When we hired Alta Planning & Design, a national leader in trail and infrastructure planning, one of the things we asked them to specifically look at is a loop around the greater metro area.”

How will FLT create the 36-mile loop?

They have identified seven priority trail projects that will effectively connect the entire Birmingham metro area. 

Picture this:

According to the plan, by adding 19 miles of new trail, we can create a loop that begins with Ruffner Mountain in the east through Railroad Park downtown to Red Mountain Park in the west, connecting the Cities of Birmingham, Fairfield, Homewood and Irondale, along with other cities previously included in the trail system.

Background on the Red Rock Trail System®

The Five Mile Creek Greenway runs from Fultondale to Gardendale. Photo courtesy of Freshwater Land Trust.
The Five Mile Creek Greenway runs from Gardendale through Fultondale to Brookside (Freshwater Land Trust)

Since its creation 13 years ago, the Red Rock Trail System® has blazed 129 miles of trails throughout Jefferson County. 

The system itself is a master plan of existing and proposed future trails, bike lanes, sidewalks and parks throughout Jefferson County. The master plan—which totals 750 miles of trails— was developed in 2010 by FLT in partnership with the Jefferson County Department of Health.

Many of the trails that crisscross Jefferson County are now a familiar part of our everyday lives. They include:

  • High Ore Line Greenway: Midfield and West Jefferson County
  • Rotary Trail: Downtown Birmingham along the railroad
  • Shades Creek Greenway: Lakeshore Parkway
  • Kiwanis Vulcan Trail: Trailheads at Vulcan and Green Springs
  • Hugh Kaul Trail: Avondale to Crestwood and beginning of Woodlawn
  • Five Mile Greenway: Gardendale through Fultondale to Brookside
  • And many more trails and bike lanes from Roebuck and Ruffner Mountain in the east to Red Mountain Park and Bessemer in the west.

In Jefferson County alone, over 2.5 million visitors use the trail system each year.

The 7 Red Rock Trail System Corridors 

Vulcan Trail Birding Oct. 24, 2022 (Freshwater Land Trust/©Bob Farley, All Rights Reserved.)

The seven Red Rock Action Plan corridors have unique characteristics and abilities to stitch together an unrivaled trail/greenway network. 

Let’s take a look at them.

The seven Red Rock Action Plan corridors are, as follows:

  1. Smithfield to Downtown – For years, Smithfield was cut off by I-65 to downtown Birmingham. This will change. The corridor  goes through the historic Black Merchant District (4th Avenue) and connects downtown Birmingham to Legion Field.
  2. 20th Street Corridor – Connecting downtown Birmingham to Kiwanis Vulcan Trail, it will correct many vehicular and pedestrian safety issues.
  3. Red Mountain Park to UAB – Connecting Red Mountain Park to Kiwanis Vulcan Trail and UAB. Additionally, it reconnects Titusville to downtown Birmingham.
  4. High Ore Line to Valley Creek Rail-to-Trail – Connects the existing High Ore Line Greenway via Fairfield and Midfield to the Valley Creek Rail-to-Trail and will connect to Miles College via a trail spur. 
  5. Ruffner Mountain Rail Trail – Connecting downtown Birmingham and Woodlawn to Ruffner Mountain.
  6. Irondale to Jemison – Connects Ruffner Mountain to Jemison Park via a new trail in development along Shades Creek.
  7. Red Mountain to Shades Creek – Connecting Red Mountain Park to Shades Creek and the Jemison Greenway.

Economic, transportation and health benefits

Freshwater Land Trust
Hugh Kaul Trail (Freshwater Land Trust/©Bob Farley, All Rights Reserved.)

The Red Rock Action Plan is also more than maps of trails and greenways. It contains invaluable annual health, transportation and economic benefits.

For example, it is estimated that the 19 miles of new trail embedded in the Red Rock Action Plan could generate $11.75 million in annual benefits. 

The benefits generated over the entire 36-mile Greater Birmingham Loop? A whopping $25 million in annual benefits.

What does that mean for you and me? Here is a breakdown:

Transportation Benefits – reduction in congestion, roadway maintenance and air pollution

Health Benefits – increased physical activity levels improves cardiovascular health, and many positive health outcomes ranging from mental health to living longer.

Economic Benefits – Non-local residents spend additional monies throughout the community via restaurants and lodging. Property values along trails increase and according to the Hoover Institution’s recent Innovative Alabama Report, increasing outdoor recreation opportunities and building green infrastructure such as the Red Rock Trail System is vital to attracting high-skilled workers to Alabama.

“We decided to move forward with the Red Rock Action Plan because we recognize that a walkable city is an absolute necessity to recruit and retain human capital,” said Rusha Smith, Freshwater Land Trust Executive Director. “In addition, the connections contained in the Red Rock Action Plan make it possible for our community members and visitors to have a safe and economical way to move around the greater Birmingham metropolitan area, especially those individuals that do not have access to a vehicle.”

How YOU can get involved

Red Rock Trail System
Connecting Birmingham one trail at a time. (Jacob Blankenship / Bham Now)

Want to help implement the Red Rock Action Plan? 

The best way you can get involved is by becoming a Freshwater Fan today. 

Buck welcomes local residents to support the plan and join the effort.

“The Red Rock Action Plan is an exciting opportunity to increase recreational and alternative transportation routes around our metropolitan areas while highlighting the beauty and unique history of our region. We are excited to see what opportunities may come from a connected trail system and welcome people from across Jefferson county to join us and support these efforts!”

Sponsored by:

Pat Byington
Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.

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