Tim Scott Recreational Trail at Duck River Reservoir wins national award

(L-R): Derrick Crandell (president, Outdoor Solutions USA, and co-chair of the Coalition for Recreational Trails), Will Turner (Office of Congressman Robert Aderholt), Susan Eller (special projects coordinator, Cullman Economic Development Agency), Christy Turner (recreational development director, Cullman Parks, Recreation, & Sports Tourism), Marianne Fowler (senior strategist for Policy Advocacy at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and co-chair of the Coalition for Recreational Trails), Ted Trippi (Office of Sen. Doug Jones) (Photo courtesy of Susan Eller/CEDA)

CULLMAN, Ala. – During Monday evening’s Cullman City Council meeting, Mayor Woody Jacobs took time to recognize the Cullman Economic Development Agency and Cullman Parks, Recreation and Sports Tourism for a national award they received for the development of the Tim Scott Recreational Trail around the Duck River Reservoir.  The Tom Petri Annual Achievement Award, given by the Coalition for Recreational Trails (CRT), is given “in recognition of outstanding use of Recreational Trails Program (RTP) funds,” according to the awards page on the CRT website.  

The RTP, in its 2019 annual report, describes itself as “an assistance program of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The RTP provides funds to the States to develop and maintain recreational trails and trail-related facilities for both nonmotorized and motorized recreational trail uses.” 

Cullman’s award was given in the “Engaging Public-Sector Partners” category which, according to the CRT, involves “engaging and garnering the support of public-sector officials including local, state and federal elected officials or agency personnel for RTP-funded projects or the overall continuation/advancement of the RTP.”

“We’re kind of good at that in Cullman, getting everybody to work together, bringing the team together,” said Jacobs.  “Parks and Rec’s really good at it.”

The mayor described the trail as originally an “afterthought” to the reservoir project that “evolved over time” into a serious outdoor recreational site.  He took time to note a number of people and groups who contributed to the development of the trail, and noted in particular Duck River Reservoir Manager Tim Scott, for whom the trail is named.

In its description of the trail on the award page, CRT wrote:

The Tim Scott Trail is a single track, natural surface, multi-use trail that circles the newly constructed Duck River Reservoir in Cullman County, Alabama. Preservation of the natural beauty within the buffer zone surrounding this waterbody for the enjoyment of the community was a priority for those involved with the reservoir’s construction. With the assistance of funding from our nation’s Recreational Trails Program (RTP), the City of Cullman committed to provide access to the public with construction of the trail system, boat launches, a fishing pier and multiple trailhead parking areas.

The recreational area’s development has required a collaborative involvement by Cullman County, the City of Cullman, and the Cullman Utilities Board. The Utilities Board is the owner of the reservoir and its surrounding buffer zone which provided the site for the recreational area. However, the City and County have both individually filed as applicants for the RTP funding assistance on projects associated with the trail construction and pedestrian bridge construction. As noted previously, the City also provides management and maintenance of the trail system through their Parks and Recreation department.

The project was conceived as part of the development of a 600-acre water supply reservoir to serve Cullman County. With the primary objective to protect and ensure water quality, the reservoir’s permit required the preservation of an undeveloped buffer zone around its perimeter. This area of old growth forest, rolling terrain, and rocky streams has a minimum width of 100 feet from the lake’s full pool elevation. The guaranteed protection of this corridor through north Alabama wilderness alongside the shimmering lake provided an unmatched opportunity for construction of a low impact pedestrian and biking trail.

In an effort to jump start the trail’s construction, Cullman commenced with the first phase of the trail while completing the application for funding assistance from the RTP. This phase included 8.8 miles of single-track, natural surface trails constructed by the International Mountain Bike Association under contract with the Cullman Utilities Board. The design focused on creating access to the natural beauty of the area for all users. The comprehensive plan included multiple trail access points with ample parking for trail and reservoir recreational users.

With RTP assistance, three additional construction contracts were awarded for completion of the remaining 13 miles of trail surrounding the lake along with two pedestrian bridges over the Duck River. The upper bridge spans across the river at its discharge into the reservoir while the lower crosses the tailwater beneath the dam. Funding from the RTP amounted to approximately 40 percent of these projects’ construction costs.

The trail enjoys diverse usage by trail runners, bikers, and walkers. The reservoir’s recreational area, which includes boat ramp access and fishing piers, also caters to paddlers and fishermen. Additional RTP funding has been awarded for the construction of restroom facilities at the recreational area’s three trailheads.

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W.C. Mann