Waterways in Walker County Receive Much Needed Improvements and Attention
Prior to the Health Action Partnership’s Livable Communities Priority Group, the Walston Bridge Road Access Point was essentially a waste dump. However, with the involvement of the group over the last few years, the site has been developed into a great place for kayaks and canoes alike to access Blackwater Creek. The clean-up has even allowed for people to park under the bridge.
The Livable Communities Priority Group of the Walker County Health Action Partnership has been hard at work on their goal to increase access to recreational spaces for outdoor physical activity opportunities. The fact that only 48% of Walker County residents have adequate access to locations for physical activity, coupled with 36% of Walker County adults being physically inactive, highlights the challenges and significant need for public recreational spaces. The development of access points along Walker County waterways supports the goal of improving the outcomes of these two health indicators.
Capitalizing on Walker County’s beautiful landscape and eco-tourism potential, the Walker County Commission, a Livable Communities priority group partner, adopted a resolution in June 2015 to designate four waterways in Walker County to the Alabama Scenic River Trail (ASRT). As a result of the ASRT-designation, the Walker County Commission sought and was awarded $4,200 in grant funding from Cawaco Resource Conservation & Development to build infrastructure to provide greater access to the waterways.
Livable Communities members identified Walston Bridge Road as a location to develop an access point along Blackwater Creek, one of the four ASRT-designated waterways. People were already utilizing the access point in a primitive way, so partners saw an opportunity to create a safe, practical way to access Blackwater Creek. This project is a perfect example of the impact of public-private partnership and what can happen when multiple government entities and private organizations work together towards a common community objective. Livable Communities partners have leveraged over $65,000 in funds and in-kind services for the development of an access point at Walston Bridge Road.
The Walker County Commission used grant funds for initial earthwork and materials for a river-accessible trail. Additionally, the Jasper city limits adjoin the right-of-way south of the bridge, so the Walker County Commission partnered with the City of Jasper to provide additional materials for the off-road road bed as well as create a deceleration lane for the access point. The Walker Area Community Foundation has also provided support for the project, allowing for additional amenities and environmental conservation efforts at the access point.
The Walker County Commission was able to engage additional partners, such as the Walker County Community Corrections, for initial site cleanup and trash removal and the Alabama Forestry Commission for tree removal. Throughout this entire project, the Alabama Scenic River Trail provided technical assistance and promotional support for all Walker County waterways. With one access point completed, Livable Communities members are already working on developing additional access points along Blackwater Creek and other Walker County waterways.
Due to the success of the Walston Bridge Road access point development, the county commission was awarded $50,000 by the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham in December of 2016 to develop six access points along three local waterways set to be completed in January of 2019. The grant will be used to create three new access points and improve three already existing launches. The end result will be 31 miles of navigable streams from Highway 257 in northern Walker County to Barney Beach in Cordova. Partnering with the Alabama Scenic River Trail, Walker County has also more recently received a grant from Alabama Power, supplementing the Community Foundation of Great Birmingham funds.