Hundreds of people gathered Wednesday evening to celebrate the opening ceremonies of Rotary Trail along 1st Avenue South in downtown Birmingham. While sipping free champagne and eating popsicles, residents took pictures in front of the new “Magic City” sign – a throwback to an old sign that welcomed visitors to Birmingham more than 60 years ago.
Rotary Trail is currently only two blocks along 1st Avenue South, but it will eventually run half a mile from 20th to 24th streets. The trial is a link in a greenway that will stretch from the Birmingham CrossPlex in Five Points West to Sloss Furnaces.
“I live a block from the trail,” says Jonathan Meadows, an architect who works and lives downtown. “This is going to now be my commute from home to work.”
Danielle Williamson and Tiffany Whitmore slowly walk their bikes down the path Wednesday evening.
“I feel like Birmingham is experiencing a renaissance, and we are right in the middle of it,” says Williamson.
Whitmore agrees. She thinks this trail is a mark of some real change in the city.
“This is like all of the hard work that people have been doing,” Whitmore explains. “This is action and product and moving forward.”
The trail is built on top of an old rail line that laid vacant for decades. Now, there’s a path with benches, picnic tables, and solar-powered charging stations for cell phones.
The Birmingham Rotary Club helped finance the trail as gift to the city and a celebration of the club’s centennial.
Stacey Lawler Taylor walks down the trail with her father, Stanley Lawler. Both are members of the Rotary Club and lifelong residents of Birmingham.
“It’s connecting so many different parts of Birmingham that we have tried to do for years. This is a good starting point,” Taylor says. She says she’s anxious and excited to see how the city continues to grow.
Her father says this trial makes him really proud of the Rotary and his city.
“I think it is going to bring a lot of people together,” says Lawler. “We have overcome not so many great years, but that’s in the past. This is the present and future of what Birmingham really is and can be, and I am just so proud to be here.”
Derek Young stands under one of the overpasses. He works for Sanguard Security and is a supervisor of the trail. Young’s new to Birmingham, originally from Houston, but he can see how special this is for the city.
“I think its going to bring back what the Magic City sign had here in the first place,” Young says, looking west toward the sign. “Bringing back the magic.”