By MADOLINE MARKHAM
Final phases of Homewood’s Shades Creek Greenway, which runs along Lakeshore Drive and currently ends at Green Springs Highway, are on track to begin in the next year. The Homewood City Council has authorized Mayor Scott McBrayer to proceed with the final consultation and design for the project.
When the greenway is completed, you will be able to walk, run or bike from Colonial Brookwood Village to West Homewood Park. In the end, the greenway will connect one university, two high schools, two major shopping areas, six residential neighborhoods, several apartment complexes, office buildings, churches and two existing parks.
“Ever since I have been on the city council I have been working to try to get the Greensprings to West Homewood Park plan moving,” said City Council President Allyn Holladay. “I have brought it up every single funding cycle, but the funding mechanism and support have not been there until recently.”
Phase Two will extend the Shades Creek Greenway under I-65 behind Wildwood and terminate across from John Carroll Catholic High School. Phase Three will extend to West Homewood Park.
“We are likely to start design effort for Phases Two and Three within three months,” said Fred Hawkins, a city council member and civil engineer. “Phase Two should be ready for construction within a year.”
Hawkins also said in about three months there will be a series of public meetings to present the greenway plans and get public input.
“We get so many requests for having events on the Lakeshore greenway we have now,” Hawkins said, “and this whole thing being built will be an economic driver. Plus, the amenity to the public will be tremendous.”
Holladay noted further benefits of the trail. “Any time you put in an amenity, property values go up,” she said. “It’s also been proven that opening a greenway deters crime.”
The greenway project has received approval for federal funding through the Birmingham Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is run by the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham.
The project is estimated to cost about $8 million. Federal air quality funds will pay for 80 percent of construction, and Homewood will pay for 20 percent. Homewood has agreed in principal to fund this 20 percent, but details about the sources for funding are currently under discussion by the city’s finance committee.
According to Lea Ann Macknally, president of Macknally Land Design who has worked on the design of the project since 2000, the new phases will continue the existing 12-foot wide multi-use asphalt trail. Along phase two, a bridge will cross to the north side of Shades Creek.
Any bridges built will be similar to the one currently in front of Homewood High School. The bridges are made of prefabricated cor-ten, a self-sealing steel that looks weathered and allows for long-term durability.
All directional signs, entry markers and mile markers will also look like those on Phase One.
Macknally Land Design is currently working to update the design, originally created in 2004, to meet new ALDOT plan set requirements.
The original plan called for a fly-over connector over Lakeshore Drive to land on the north side near John Carroll Catholic High School campus. Macknally and the council are currently revisiting this part of the plan to determine the safest, most cost-efficient and aesthetically pleasing option. There is a potential for an at-grade pedestrian crossing instead, but details are yet to be determined.
Hawkins said an alternative plan could save as much as $2 million.
There will be a cost savings on the new phases because the ALDOT requirements for Phase One stipulated that the trail must be able to support 18-wheelers, according to Macknally. Because ALDOT requirements now do not view the trail as a roadway, costs of earthwork, stone work and engineering will be less.
Walmart has donated trail right of way property behind their building to the City of Homewood, but other properties on the trail must still be negotiated.
Supporters of the greenway are enthusiastic that the plans for these new phases will at last be brought to life.
“By continuing the greenway, not only are we spurring economic development,” Holladay said, “but we are also stretching to an area that needs revitalization and to an area that is otherwise disconnected from the city. It will create more links for that portion of West Homewood and to create more of a community for all of Homewood.”
Long term plans don’t end with Phase Three at West Homewood Park, either.
“It will be a no-brainer to connect to Red Mountain Park,” Holladay said. “We would have a whole community of outdoor recreation for exercise and a connection for all of Homewood and the communities around us. It’s a perfect opportunity for us to showcase everything that we have.”