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Funny how an almost-straight line has turned long and serpentine.

The idea was simple: a “Calhoun-to-Calhoun” greenway, a path that would link the Huntsville and Decatur campuses of the community college that serves more than 6,000 students.

Then it broke out into a major brainstorm, the “Singing River Trail,” a 70-mile, multi-jurisdictional greenway that would link the two campuses – as well as the cities of Huntsville, Madison, Decatur and Athens.

It’s about creating a network that becomes emblematic of the region.”

The Land Trust of North Alabama is the driving force behind the initiative, with the support of the Committee of 100 and all involved municipalities.

“This is truly a regional effort,” says Marie Bostick, executive director of the Land Trust. “It would connect all the jurisdictions in all the counties in one big regional trail that everybody could get behind to promote economics and quality of life.”

Public input is requested

The 70-mile journey is merely taking its baby steps now.

Two public meetings are being held to gather input:

  • Monday, March 5: Singing River Trail public launch event, 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center’s Education Resource Center.
  • Tuesday, March 6: Singing River Trail public launch event, 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. at the Calhoun Community College Decatur campus, Sciences Building, Room 109.

“We want to have broad, diverse input so we get everybody’s perspective,” Bostick says.

The presentation will be led by Alta Planning and Design, which was hired for a Phase I study. The Land Trust is funding this phase and the next step; the construction of the Singing River Trail would be a public-partnership, Bostick says.

Alta previously designed the Wolf River Trail in Memphis and Northwest Arkansas Razorback Regional Greenway, both of which involved multiple municipalities. Alta also consulted on Huntsville’s downtown bicycle trail.

‘Very early in the process’

“It’s very, very early in terms of the planning process,” says Dennis Madsen, Director of Urban and Long Range Planning for the City of Huntsville and a member of the multi-jurisdictional committee studying the project. “We’re starting to identify places where we can make long segments and where the trail would go.”

Despite the “Singing River” name, the greenway would not follow alongside the Tennessee River for its entire distance. However, the Land Trust is in meetings with officials from the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge to examine the practicality of the greenway being a part of the refuge along the river.

According to Madsen, a five-year timeframe to finalize the plan and make all the necessary land acquisitions and agreements is likely before construction can begin, and that would take place segment by segment.

It’s a long-term effort, but with a lofty goal.

“It’s about creating a greenway network that becomes emblematic of the region,” Madsen said.

To that end, “Singing River” is a nod to the Yuchie tribe, which said the flowing waters of the Tennessee River sounded like the voice of a woman singing. In the next decade, new voices will be heard there, tying present with past, community with community.