The Walker County Health Action Partnership (HAP) and Walker County Commission celebrated the opening of two new waterway access points along Blackwater Creek on Thursday.
The two access points are part of the Walker County Waterways Project to add a 31-mile stretch to the Alabama Scenic River Trail.
“This has been a long time coming,” said HAP's Jenny Short at the Curry access point. “[This area] was bad. It was a dumping ground. Unfortunately there were some illegal drugs being sold, too. It was not a good place to be, but we've had a burgeoning interest in outdoor recreation and we've excited to be able to open this.”
The Curry access point, located on Camp O'Rear Road just off Highway 257/Curry Highway, is the northern most point of the Walker County Waterways Project. Funded entirely by private funds and a $50,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, the opening of the Highway 257 and Highway 69 points complete a three-year project that saw three new access points created as well as improvements to three others.
"It's a really good example of public/private partnership - private dollars going to help public interest," Elyse Peters of the HAP told those gathered for the ribbon cutting. "This is really the most northern point of what we call our Walker County Waterways Project trying to create a 31-mile blueway, spanning from this point to the takeout point in Cordova."
Both new locations feature public parking and easy access to Blackwater Creek. New signage has also gone up along the highway to alert drivers of the access points' locations, as well as at the points themselves with information about the location and Walker County Waterways as a whole.
"I'm so proud of our county to have this because this is the kind of thing that makes a difference," Walker County District 4 Commissioner Steven Aderholt said at the Curry Highway access point. "I've taken my children, ages 4,6 and 13, down this hill and felt like I needed a repel rope. So to have easier access, it allows more parents, children and families to be able to come access waterways that we haven't had access to in the past."
While Thursday's ribbon cutting marks the finalization of the initial grant, Peters said Thursday that options are being looked at to further enhance outdoor recreational options for Walker County.
"This is just the first to try to create access to our wonderful outdoor recreation assets that we have in our community. Getting people outside, active and enjoying what we have to offer."