Advisory group hears river park plans

Published 5:52 pm Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A group of advisers saw a master plan Wednesday of what a river park in Selma could become.

But don’t go grabbing your sunshades yet.

“It’s just paper right now,” said Chuck Kelly Jr. of Gresham Smith and Partners in Birmingham, who worked on the drawings for the plan.

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The park would begin at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, beside the Career Center and extend along the river all the way to Martin Luther King Drive near the Old Depot Museum.

Kelly explained the 12-acre park would begin as a sliver and widen as it extends down behind riverfront businesses on Water Avenue toward the Old Depot Museum.

Kelly and members of the Selma Planning and Development Department, who have worked on the project, see a river park as pulling people into downtown.

“It can be a catalyst for economic development in downtown Selma,” Kelly said.

At least one member of the advisory group asked how the city would pay for such a project that does not have a price tag, now.

“We’ll face that when we get there,” answered Patti Sexton, historic preservation and revitalization coordinator for the city.

The project consists of many different portions of the overall master plan, Sexton explained, and the city would complete each phase of the park as money becomes available.

For example, the city has money already to build a walking trail or promenade between the back of the businesses along the proposed park and the river, said Charlotte Griffeth, director of the city’s planning and development department.

On Monday, Griffeth’s office will submit paperwork for a $600,000 grant that could see docks built along the river’s edge at the park, she said.

As grant opportunities become available, the city will have some element of the park ready to apply, Griffeth explained.

Said Sexton, “That’s why we want a master plan.”

Some of the elements planned for the park include:

Playground (2,000 to 3,000 square feet): Two play zones, one for young children and toddlers and one for older children.

Interactive water feature (3,0000 to 4,000 square feet): Stock water elements that are located on a cool deck surface.

Amphitheater: A 2,000-plus amphitheater that can accommodate large concerts and events is to be located near river with excellent views from seats.

River walk: a pedestrian and multi-use trail along the river. This feature will connect all of the major elements of the park together while providing a space for exploring the riverfront while experiencing excellent views of the river, Edmund Pettus Bridge, railroad bridge and views across the river. The river walk can also extend to a multi-use trail that connects the parks to other attractions in the city.

Pavilion/shelter: At least one large pavilion that could hold events from weddings and large parties to small concerts and lectures.

Market: A space for regularly scheduled markets, such as a Saturday farmers market, monthly antique markets, special exhibits, fairs or other similar events. The old cotton warehouse may provide an excellent space for this type of use.

Historic Selma Carousel: A small carousel sized for about 10-20 users themed to historic Selma. Instead of having traditional carousel horses, the Historic Selma Carousel would use imagery from Selma’s past as inspiration for the “horses.”

Butterfly garden: In keeping with the “Butterfly Capital of Alabama,” a butterfly garden would provide a contained area for plants that are particularly good for attracting butterflies along with a small water feature for the butterflies’ use.

Police precinct: A small area either included with another building on site or a free-standing kiosk with space for one or two officers to assist park visitors.

Boat dock/ramp: Located near the park, the dock will allow a place for visitors to come to Selma by boat.

Parking: Lot for about 50 spaces on the site for visitors and staff with additional parking for large events and peak use off-site.