In just over a decade, a “Highway for Humans” will take cyclists and hikers from Bridgeport, in the northeast corner of Alabama, across the state to the Shoals.
The Singing River Trail (SRT), currently under construction, is a 220-mile greenway that runs roughly parallel to the Tennessee River.
The 10-foot-wide path is for bikes and pedestrians only, said SRT executive director John Kvach, Ph.D.
The concept originated in 2014 to connect the Calhoun Community College campuses in Decatur and Huntsville. Five years later, organizers received funding for planning, said Kvach, who joined in 2020.
“I wake up every morning and … I go to bed every night thinking about the Singing River Trail and how we can connect it to northern Alabama,” he said.
In urban areas, the path is paved or concreted. Rural parts will have an ADA-compliant natural finish, which is attractive and less expensive.
“This is a fine rock dust that compacts fairly tightly and can be used with a wheelchair, walker or thin-wheeled bicycle,” he said. “I don’t want people to think you’re walking on marbles.”
The SRT is seeking donations, rights of way, easements, and public or private land for this Native American Heritage Trail project.
Like water, Kvach joked, “We always look for the path of least resistance.”
A greenway can increase property value by 5% to 7%, he found.
“We’re like the Statue of Liberty,” he said. “We don’t need your best properties. Give us your tired, your poor, give us the jobs you don’t want to use for your farm or family business.”
Developers of apartments and quarters are “particularly interested in us networking,” he said. “This could be a key component of what sets their community apart from another development that is just isolated in a cornfield and may have a swimming pool and small dog park.”
Kvach hopes that one day people will find themselves on this “highway for people” — literally and metaphorically — while enjoying sunshine, fresh air, and a respite from modern problems. A true believer, Kvach made his comments while walking himself.
The focus for the next few years will be on design and engineering.
“Within the next five to seven years, you’re probably going to see a pretty steep increase in trail construction,” he said. Construction work is imminent near the Huntsville Airport to Triana. The project is headquartered in a donated home near historic Mooresville.
Scottsboro, Huntsville and Madison already have full trail sections, he said, and “we’re taking over existing trail routes in Athens, Decatur, Muscle Shoals, Sheffield and Florence.”
About 15 miles of the trail have been completed so far.
“I think 80% of the project will be completed within 15 years,” he said.
Kvach, a professor of Southern history for 22 years, explained that the SRT logo incorporates the Native American concepts of water, land and air. Logo artist Paula Nelson is a Cherokee citizen of the Eastern Band. According to legend, exiled in dry Oklahoma, local girl Te-lah-nay worked her way back to her beloved river, which sings.
Huntsville’s Spring City Cycling Club hopes the SRT will “provide cyclists with opportunities to access routes and off-road trails that can encourage more people to embrace cycling as a sport, as well as tourism and adventure,” said Terry Price, SCCC Community Director of Affairs.
Adventure cyclists are likely to visit local hotels, restaurants, and bike shops as they navigate a trail that is protected from traffic with natural features and historical landmarks.
The economic impact of the trail is estimated at $26 million, with 100 permanent jobs, a higher value for adjacent properties, $866,000 in transportation services and $1.4 million in healthcare benefits.
This story was previously published by This is Alabama. Want to read more good news about Alabama? Sign up for the This is Alabama newsletter Here.