Alabama Power Foundation Funds Construction of Moon River Canoe Launch on Cahaba

Alabama Power Foundation Funds Construction of Moon River Canoe Launch on Cahaba

The Alabama Power Foundation on July 3 joined the nonprofit Freshwater Land Trust, the cities of Leeds and Irondale, and conservation and economic development organizations to announce plans to construct the Moon River Canoe Launch, the first recreational site that will be developed as part of the recently announced Cahaba Blueway.

Details of the project, which will be located on U.S. 78 between Irondale and Leeds, were unveiled to a packed house during a news conference at the Bass Pro Shops in Leeds. In addition to being a marquee site on the Cahaba Blueway, the launch also ties into the Red Rock Ridge and Valley Trail System now under construction across Jefferson County.

“This project brings together two recreational initiatives and two amazing municipalities, said Wendy Jackson, executive director of the Birmingham-based Freshwater Land Trust. “It combines the community-supported initiative of the Red Rock Ridge and Valley Trail System with the vision of the Cahaba Blueway. And it wouldn’t have happened without the support of the Alabama Power Foundation,” Jackson said.

Also involved in the Moon River canoe launch are the Cahaba River Society, The Nature Conservancy of Alabama and Alabama Innovation Engine, a design-based economic development initiative that is a partnership between Auburn University’s School of Architecture Urban Studio and the University of Alabama’s Center for Economic Development. The organizations have combined resources and expertise to coordinate the Cahaba Blueway’s longterm development.

The launch will be named Moon River after a combination river camp/gas station/dance hall that used to exist nearby during the 1930s.

The Cahaba River is Alabama’s longest remaining stretch of free-flowing river, a drinking water source for the Birmingham metro area, and a hotspot of biological diversity. The Cahaba Blueway, once fully developed, is expected to provide multiple public access sites along the entire river for a variety of recreational purposes.

“We’re excited to be a participant in a project that’s important for protecting the environment and for improving the quality of life for people here and across the state,” said Matt Bowden, vice president of Environmental Affairs for Alabama Power. Bowden represented the Alabama Power Foundation at the news conference.

Leeds Mayor David Miller and Irondale Mayor Tommy Joe Alexander praised Alabama Power for its support of the project. The two cities will join forces to provide maintenance and security at the canoe launch. “This is something good that we could do together,” Miller said.

Alexander noted that he was “raised on the Cahaba” including being baptized at the river, learning to swim there and catching his first fish in its waters. He said the two cities working together means the site will be “double protected.”

In addition to its connection to the blueway, the launch is also a designated site on the Red Rock Ridge and Valley Trail System, a regional greenway and street-based trail network designed to connect communities across Jefferson County. The Red Rock master plan proposes over 200 miles of shared-use greenways and trails along six main corridors, as well as over 600 miles of street-based bicycle and pedestrian pathways that will connect the corridors with surrounding areas.

Beth Stewart, with the Cahaba River Society, called the Cahaba a “world-class” river with tremendous, unrealized tourism and recreation potential. She said the blueway will provide opportunities for sustainable economic development for communities along the entire length of the waterway.

Chris Oberholster, state director of the Nature Conservancy, said he was pleased to have the Alabama Power Foundation involved in the blueway, and noted that Alabama Power has supported numerous, important Nature Conservancy initiatives in Alabama over the past 25 years.

Construction of the Moon River launch is expected to begin this fall and be completed by 2014.