Project could make Cahaba River a national destination

Stakeholders broke ground for a new project along the Centreville portion of the Cahaba River. (abc3340.com)

It is considered one of the most biodiverse rivers in the country, but many also consider the Cahaba River an undeveloped resource in the state. However, with the movement of some dirt Friday morning, many hope that changes soon.

Back in 2017, Cahaba Medical Care received a grant from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. This grant will be used to expand and renovate the Centreville Walking Trail, as well as construct a handicap accessible scenic overlook and canoe launch.

"What we have now is a perfect partnership between city, county and Cahaba River, utilization of natural resources" Bibb County Board of Education President Mike Oakley said.

Cahaba Medical Care worked close with the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development during this process. Director of Economic Development Initiatives for UACED, Brian Rushing, said Centreville has needed access to the Cahaba River for some time. The access Centreville is receiving is part of the Cahaba Blueway Initiative, which is a program that bridges the public awareness, public information and infrastructure gaps that prevent the Cahaba from becoming a recognized outdoor recreation destination. Rushing says this program has the potential to make the Cahaba a regional and national destination.

"Similarly developed water trails in other parts of the country, either in the southeast or other parts of the country have generated on the order of millions of dollars of economic impact each year," Rushing said. "We do not know exactly what the Cahaba River will generate for communities along it, but we know it will be significant. Certainly as the program develops over time, and we develop more access to the river and also work on community development, plugging local businesses and citizens into the river, that impact will only be enhanced over time."

The first phase of the project is slated to be completed in Spring 2019.

"I think we are sort of like in an area where nobody really knows about us," Centreville Mayor Terry Morton said. "But once they find out about this region, then they are going to say hey man, why didn't we know about it earlier?"



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