Greenways on the way to Selma?

Published 12:25 am Thursday, September 24, 2009

SELMA — Ward 3 city council member Dr. Monica Newton likes to ride her bicycle with her family. It’s a nice way to enjoy the historic district, she says.

“The historic district is prettiest on bikes,” Newton says.

But getting around Selma on a two-wheeler can become difficult. The city’s not terribly walking friendly either.

Newton is leading the charge to create a greenway in Selma to connect the proposed Riverfront Park along Water Avenue with the Riverside Park, site of the re-enactment every year of the Battle of Selma.

A greenway is a linear open space established along a natural corridor, such as a river, stream, ridgeline, rail-trail, canal or other route for conservation, recreation or alternative transportation purposes.

Greenways can connect parks, nature preserves, cultural facilities and historic sites within business and residential areas.

A greenway in Selma would promote physical activity, people getting out in the open and even tourism, Newton said.

About 15 people gathered in City Hall to talk about beginning the long process of seeing a greenway constructed in Selma.

Linking the proposed Riverfront Park and Riverview Park seemed logical because they run along the Alabama River, according to most.

Riverview Park, the site of the Battle of Selma, needs some improvements, Newton said.

“Nothing should be done with the park that would distract from its purpose,” she added.

Chuck Kelly and Patrick Wheeler of Gresham Smith and Partners explained the concept of greenways and how they enhance a community.

Some questions raised about keeping the authenticity of the Civil War battleground were laid to rest when Kelly talked about adjusting the greenways to accommodate bicyclists, walkers, joggers and not interfere with the pristine historical area.

“If a greenway is something the community wants, then we can set the groundrules and limitations and move forward,” Kelly said.

It’s unclear what the cost for constructing greenways might total because much of the price depends on the type of trail constructed. For instance, something appropriate for the Riverview Park, sunflowers and hay, so as not to distract from the re-enactment, would cost less than a greenway with boardwalks and stream crossings, which usually run about $750,000 a mile.

There are various funding sources for the project, including grants from transportation enhancement, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Resources Conservation Service and others.