Archeological concerns halt greenway project, close disc golf course
By Scott Buttram
State officials stopped work on a portion of the greenway project in Trussville last Friday after they were notified by disc golf enthusiast Joe Thacker of Birmingham of his concerns that there may be archeological artifacts within the construction site. The area in question is north of Cherokee Drive and extends to the baseball fields in the sports complex. Work will continue in the vicinity of Civitan Park.
Alabama Department of Transportation Division Engineer Brian Davis said Bill Turner will investigate the site this week or next. After Turner examines to area, the next course of action will be decided.
“This project has been thoroughly vetted over a number of years,” Davis said. “But we’ll wait and see what the investigation finds.”
The greenway includes a walking trail that will stretch from Civitan Park to the sports complex and has been in the works since 1998. The project is funded with a federal grant and administered by ALDOT.
On Monday, Trussville Mayor Gene Melton instructed the parks department to remove the disc golf baskets until the project is complete in order to protect the site.
Thacker, who described himself as an “untrained amateur archeologist,” was a co-designer of one of the two disc golf courses in Trussville.
“This is a very high probability area for cultural resources,” Thacker said. “If there is actually a cultural site, that needs to be assessed before they go through there. Undoubtedly, there is something there. Is it a major village or just a scatter of points and hammer stones and stuff, I don’t know. But it needs to be protected.”
Thacker said he had issues with the walking trail prior to contacting the state about the archeological concerns.
“One of the issues I have is the alignment of the trail,” Thacker said. “We never had a chance to comment on it. I think it was laid out before the disc golf course, but one of the unique things about disc golf is that we volunteered our efforts to design the course.”
The construction work on the greenway has impacted the disc golf course, according to Thacker.
“When the trail came through, it just pretty much popped up and it went right through and it affected the disc golf course,” he said. “We understand that it’s a multi-use park and we will end up doing a redesign of some holes over at Civitan Park to make it a safer course.”
Erosion concerns were another issue raised by Thacker, but Councilman Brian Plant said he didn’t believe there were any major issues with erosion or the greenway plan.
“There are multiple agencies involved with this project,” Plant said. “We have been carefully watching the BMP’s (Best Management Practices) of this contractor to make sure the Cahaba River is protected. When the city updated its zoning ordinance over ten years ago, we included an overlay for property along the Cahaba River. This was done to protect the river as Trussville continues to develop. After we passed the ordinance, the Cahaba River Society gave the city an award for its effort to protect the river through our zoning ordinance.”
Plant said that after passing the zoning ordinance, the city began a study of the upper Cahaba watershed to protect the tributaries of the upper part of the river, and to alleviate flooding and sediment buildup in the river.
Thacker said he also has concerns about phase two of the greenway project.
“I have contacted the mayor about the potential for us to actually have some input into the route,” Thacker said. “The mayor believes there can be no changes or it would have to be approved by ALDOT. I don’t know if that’s correct or not. As it is proposed right now, it would significantly affect the disc golf course and the mountain bike trail and the trails in general.”