A gap between two of Huntsville’s largest parks could soon be bridged, joining memories of years past with hopes for the future.
During its regularly scheduled meeting July 8, the Huntsville City Council approved the second of two steel greenway bridges to be installed this year at Brahan Spring Park. The bridges will connect the park’s walking trail to the Huntsville Aquatics Center by spanning the spillway at the south end of the Brahan Spring Lagoon.
Crews recently installed the first greenway bridge as part of the Spring Branch Greenway project. It will carry walkers and cyclists across a stream at Brahan Spring Park to Huntsville Spring Branch for access to John Hunt Park. With these new links, the City is moving closer to its goal of connecting the Rocket City via the greenway system.
“Ultimately, you will be able to use the new connection to travel from John Hunt to Brahan Spring, then to Lowe Mill and finally into downtown,” said City Administrator John Hamilton.
By year’s end, two of the City’s most storied parks will be just a short walk or bike ride from each other, thanks to the City’s latest efforts.
And, with South Huntsville parks hosting events at the regional and national levels this year, it’s the future of these parks that has everyone’s attention.
Connecting yesterday and today
At Brahan Spring, the Huntsville Aquatics Center makes most of the headlines these days. However, it’s the days long past at Brahan Spring Lagoon that many citizens remember most.
For more than 30 years, Brahan Spring Park was the home of the Sertoma Playground. Paddle boats, a rollercoaster, Ferris wheel and other kid-friendly rides made plenty of memories for thousands of visitors. Park-goers could even ride the Casey Jones Train, which carried passengers around the Brahan Spring Lagoon. With 18 rides in all, the park was a popular destination in the Rocket City for more than three decades before closing in 1998.
Today, the City plans to reshape the lagoon to improve landscaping and make Brahan Spring Park a must-see attraction in the Rocket City.
“We will continue to work on transforming the park over the next few years,” Hamilton said. “We’ve done a master plan for Brahan Spring (Park) that has us making continuous changes that will make it more usable and more aesthetically pleasing. Bringing these parks together today will help Huntsville grow even stronger tomorrow.”
The greenway connection
The Spring Branch Greenway project, which consists of approximately three-quarters of a mile in new greenway, is currently under construction and nearly 75% complete. It will be adjacent to the creek for most of the pathway between the two parks.
However, the project bringing two of the City’s most popular destinations together will require a bit more work before it opens to the public later this summer.
“Greenways are usually constructed along our creek banks, which makes us dependent on the weather and site condition for completion,” said Kathy Martin, director of City Engineering. “The new bridge is complete and we are currently working on constructing the 12-foot-wide, multi-use path, which will then connect to an existing sidewalk along Johnson Road leading directly into John Hunt Park. Although the construction is weather-dependent, this section of new greenway could be ready for use by early August.”
Once both bridges are complete, those using it will have direct connectivity by walking or biking between the two parks.
This new link will also connect residents and visitors to popular destinations such as the championship sport complexes of John Hunt Park and the Aquatics Center. Additionally, the City will add the renovated Joe W. Davis Stadium to its arsenal by fall 2022. City leaders anticipate the new “Joe,” located on the north end of John Hunt Park, will host everything from minor league soccer to high school football.
“City parks have, and will continue to, crown champions in sports on all levels of competition,” said Bernita Reese, director of Parks and Recreation. “It allows people to not only be a part of the change but become active users of the change.”