For those who think of Land Trust preservation projects as merely serpentine trails through hilly forests, consider this:
Hiking. Disc golf. Cycling. Horseback riding. Education.
One of the most versatile Land Trust of North Alabama properties has opened on a 371-acre preserve on Chapman Mountain.
“It’s very centrally located and will have a more diverse group of uses than any of our current preserves,” says Marie Bostick, executive director of the Land Trust. “It’s a very intensive recreation property, and the pavilion is geared toward education.”
The park currently has some three miles of multi-use trails – for pedestrians, cyclists and horseback riders – with plans for more. It will soon also include a disc golf course and a 1,920-square foot solar-powered pavilion that will be used for meetings and teaching opportunities for local students.
Long-term plans for the site include mountain-bike trails that can be used for major competitions.
Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Alabama and Vulcan Materials have generously contributed to the construction effort, and the Terry family donated land and financial support; its name will be on the pavilion.
Land Trust has long history with City
The Land Trust of North Alabama, which has a hand-in-hand role with the City of Huntsville, is a non-profit organization founded in the 1980s as city leaders recognized the need to preserve greenspace on Monte Sano as development projects increased.
Since its initial acquisition of 547 acres, the Land Trust now manages more than 6,000 in a five-county area, with more than 70 miles of public trails.
As the City of Huntsville developed its Master Greenway Plan, it has relied heavily on the Land Trust.
The Land Trust has “the ability to facilitate projects by working with landowners and having conversations about fundraising that the City can’t,” Bostick explains. “We can work through the nuances of land ownership and preliminary work that has to be done. We’re more flexible and we can move the processes along to get more done faster.”
Because the Land Trust is a non-profit entity, it can seek private and corporate support to fund projects, unlike the City.
“The Land Trust has brought so much to the table, in both the planning and implementation of the greenways,” says Dennis Madsen, Director of Urban and Long-Range Planning for the City of Huntsville.
“Their knowledge of the geography and geology of North Alabama has helped identify potential routes and work around unforeseen obstacles. Their standing as a non-profit also makes them a much better partner for taking donations from companies and individuals who are interested in donating funds or land to the cause.”
As Bostick notes, there are several benefits of a greenway network, and the Land Trust was particularly motivated by one of them.
“There is the connectivity issue, for transportation, for people to walk and bike to shopping,” she said. “There is the economic development. Corporate people come into Huntsville and want to know about quality of life offerings. Then there are property values. Study after study says the closer you are to a preserved space, the higher the property values are.
“From our perspective, it’s about the environmental benefits. You’re putting in greenways and all the wonderful things are happening, but you’re also preserving a beautiful natural habitat.”
The Chapman Mountain opening follows on the heels of an expansion of a preserve on Wade Mountain, in North Huntsville. It has two miles of multi-use trails, for hikers, cyclists and horseback riders.
The Land Trust is meeting with SORBA-Huntsville (a branch of Southern Off-Road Bicycling Association) and NICA (National Interscholastic Cycling Association) to develop trails for mountain-biking. The Wade Mountain trails would be less technical than others in Huntsville, thus enabling training for young competitors and novices.
The Land Trust is now working on what would be an eight-mile trail stretching from Ditto Landing to Monte Sano State Park. The first step would be to connect Ditto to Blevins Gap, where Four Mile Post cuts through the mountain, and the Land Trust is in the land acquisition process to create a new trail.
It’s a long-range plan, but it also checks all the boxes – connectivity, quality of life, property value and environment – that asserts the Land Trust’s treasured role with the City.
“The Land Trust is a highly valued partner,” Madsen says. “They’re extremely respected in the community, and committed to preservation and recreation, adding to Huntsville’s quality of life.”