By Crystal McGough
After years of hard work, the City of Clay has finally received a right-to-use license needed to extend the Cosby Lake walking trails onto the Department of Youth Services’ property in Clay. The right to use license officially went into effect on Monday.
On Friday, the DYS land committee presented a recommendation to the DYS board to issue the right to the City. The board, including State Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, voted unanimously to approve the recommendation.
“This was on my list of things to get accomplished when I was elected,” Mayor Charles Webster said. “This is just a start on what I hope to get done in the next four years.”
According to State Rep. Danny Garrett, Webster and Clay City Manager Ronnie Dixon have been working for at least three years toward this goal. However, he said they had a difficult time finding the right person to approve the project.
“The mayor and Ronnie Dixon have been working on this for sometime,” Garrett said. “It made common sense to do this. The city was going to take care of this land, it was going to provide walking trails, but trying to get through all the bureaucratic red tape was a problem.”
Garrett said that when he first spoke with Webster and Dixon, they asked if he could try to find out who in Montgomery they could talk with about using the property for walking trails. After going through a few different channels, Garrett said he eventually talked to Sen. Coleman-Madison.
“We talked about trying to do what we could,” Garrett said. “Then over the years, we just sort of did what we could down from our end in Montgomery to try to get them to the right people. It has taken various twists and turns over the last few years, hitting brick walls, but finally they were able to get to the right person and in the right channel, and it just so happens that Sen. Coleman-Madison was actually on the board of DYS. That was important because she was able to make the case and that carried the day.”
Garrett said that, from the get-go, everyone he spoke with felt that granting Clay the right to the trails would be a win-win situation because it would allow Clay to maintain the DYS property.
“Along the way, while the mayor and Ronnie were making their contacts, we were sort of working the other end, trying to help make sure that people understood what they were trying to do,” Garrett said. “It makes sense because, what the city is going to do, they’re going to make it attractive, keep the trails clean, and the landscape. That’s going to protect the property. If it were not that case, the property would continue to be vandalized and neglected. This is going to improve the value of the property and it’s going to be wonderful for the city.”
The abandoned lot of land, which formerly housed a girls’ school, is currently owned by the State of Alabama. On several occasions, members of the Clay City Council have mentioned the possibility of the DYS putting the property up for sale. However, at this time the property is not yet for sale and no price has been set, according to Webster.
Garrett said that the realistic prospect of the land selling is not very high.
“The land is just sitting around,” he said. “For them to sell the land, there is a process they have to go through (and) it takes the state a long time to move through that process.”
Webster said that the city currently has no plans of purchasing the property if or when it does go up for sale.
In the case of it selling, “we would negotiate with the new owners to keep the walking trails (and) hope to keep them community trails,” he said.
The city plans to immediately begin working with The Fresh Water Land Trust and surveyors on the design for the walking trails, which will extend from the existing trails at Cosby Lake.
“There are no trails on the (DYS) property at this time and the trails we build will be for public access,” Webster said.
Garrett said that he is proud that a state representative and senator could work together to help Webster and the City of Clay reach it’s goal.
“Ultimately, we support their efforts,” he said. “The heavy lifting was done by the mayor, Ronnie Dixon and Sen. Coleman-Madison. I just helped them along the way. I’ve got to say, at the end of the day, it was the work of the mayor and Ronnie Dixon. Their persistence is what made this happen. It’s a great result.”