Stewart-Wheeler Memorial Park opened for play in March 2014 and was publicly dedicated on May 17, 2014. The 39 acre site donated to the City by Patricia Wheeler (Surviving Spouse of Alec Wheeler) and Patricia Wheeler Smitherman, is located at the intersection of U.S. Highway 82 and Alabama State Route 219. Multiple youth athletic fields, playground areas, and multi-use recreational trails are planned for the site. Stewart-Wheeler Park is one of the finest youth athletic venues in the State of Alabama.
In 2017, Cahaba Medical Care (CMC) took the lead on a collaborative effort to rebuild a walking trail in Bibb County that would provide better access to the Cahaba River in addition to promoting walking and exercise. Working in close partnership with the City of Centreville, the Bibb County Board of Education, Bibb Medical Center and the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development, CMC was able to secure a Recreational Trails grant from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) to renovate and expand the Centreville Walking Trail and to install a safe, sustainable canoe launch and scenic lookout with handicap accessibility.
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Designed to be ultra low-impact, the canoe launch/scenic lookout will be an elevated structure constructed of galvanized steel located on the river bank to the right of the walking trail, approximately 200 feet north of the Bibb County Chamber of Commerce. It will sit just above the bank slope surface using pilings to minimize bank disturbance.
The canoe launch will provide a safe, durable and environmentally sustainable access point in Centreville, giving both residents and visitors a place to enjoy the Cahaba River. The access point is being developed as part of the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development’s (UACED) Cahaba Blueway initiative, a program designed to remove the informational and physical barriers that currently prevent people from experiencing the Cahaba by promoting sustainable development for recreational access. The Cahaba Blueway has created guidelines for developing river access infrastructure, as well as recognizable and marketable branding and standardized signage that communities can use when constructing their own access points along the river. The signs will provide important and easy-to-understand location and safety information that enables visitors to have a more enjoyable experience.
These collaborative efforts for CMC have only just began, as our organization is now working to generate additional support and raise the funds needed to successfully complete the desired construction and beautification of the Cahaba River Walking Trail. Although the project is partially funded by the grant from ADECA, we are required by the state of Alabama to provide match funding for 20 percent of the grant amount. Additionally, the river bank along the current walking trail has experienced extensive erosion over the past several months, causing changes to the scope of work for the project along with a significant increase in total costs. Due to these scope and budget changes, the project has been divided into phases. The first phase, scheduled for completion in Spring 2019, includes construction of the canoe launch/scenic lookout and loading/unloading area, improvements and handicap accessibility to both ends of the walking trail, and aesthetic improvements.
This project is something we’re passionate about, and we need your help to bring it to a successful completion. The new walking trail and access point will not only improve quality of life in our community by promoting exercise and enhancing access to green space - it will also have a great economic impact and lead to better conservation outcomes for one of the most biologically diverse and beautiful rivers in North America. We hope you will consider giving to this worthwhile project so that we can continue to enjoy this beautiful and unique natural resource for generations to come!