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Railroad Park

Railroad Park is a nineteen acre green space in downtown Birmingham, only a few blocks from where I work.Opened in 2010, the area was a collaboration between public and private sources to create an urban park that acknowledges the city's industrial roots and the materials that shaped it. It is bordered on one side by an active railroad yard and on the other by the University of Alabama in Birmingham and its world renowned medical center.

I visited on a hot day earlier this summer, and I was impressed with the peaceful atmosphere, surprising given its industrial setting. An elevated walking trail provides a great view of the train tracks and downtown skyscrapers. There are no train crossings, so no train whistles, only a slow chug as children play and joggers and couples move along the walkways.Water softens the hard edges of rock and steel, as lakes and streams cover about a third of the park.Railroad park is often host to concerts and cultural events. There are playgrounds and an amphitheater and lush green lawns, truly a retreat for urban dwellers and visitors. It is a place for picnics and family recreation, a place to relax and to exercise; despite the heat, there were quite a few people enjoying the park the afternoon I visited.Above left shows the creative structure of some of the seating, using rocks unearthed when construction on the site began. There is also plenty of more traditional seating, shown on the right.

Plantings are primarily native grasses and masses of both perennials and annuals. Hundreds of young flowering trees, hardwoods, and evergreens will grow to someday provide much needed shade.

Railroad Park replaces blocks of urban blight and reflects the community spirit that has led to revitalization plans for additional downtown areas. More developments, including a new ballpark, are underway adjacent to the area. Railroad Park demonstrates the increased value and improved quality of life that green spaces can bring to the most urban environment.

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Reader Comments (20)

I love to see this kind of thoughtful re-use of blighted areas. More cities are reclaiming abandoned areas and the results are fantastic. I can see Railroad Park is just starting out, but when the plants mature it will be beautiful. Already they've used the industrial bones and urban setting so well, and it sounds like people are there enjoying it all the time.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaurrie

This ia wonderful, the greening of industrial areas, making them accessible to families to enjoy. This is how we hope our Olympic site in London will be for years to come. People and nature will be able to enjoy what was once totally wrecked by humans.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPauline Mulligan

Beautiful park and a great post! Jeannine

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJeannine

Terrific that a *good* trend continues to spread around the country. For too long, blighted areas around now-dead railroad facilities have remained eyesores. Enjoy.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLee May

just read that London's Olympic Park is greening 'blighted' space.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDiana of Elephant's Eye

Great to see new life breathed into forgotten spaces. Thanks for telling us about it.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Chapman

We need many more of these fabulous green spaces in the urban inner city areas. What a fantastic use of time, effort and funds.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBernieh

It is good to see another city turning blight into beauty. These urban areas have so much potential to add to community life with renewed adaptive reuse and greenspace.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

Very nice! I love railroads, and a park next to one sounds like a great place to take children and teach them some history. I love the benches from the rocks, too!

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHolleyGarden

This is a great thing to see! More urban greening like this should be encouraged and this example is very encouraging to see :))

August 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMark and Gaz

That will be such a beautiful area when it is all filled in! I think a green area close by is especially nice for families with loved ones in the medical center right there. (A member of my family actually had heart surgery there as a child.) What a great addition to the urban space!

August 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterIndie

An urbanite myself, I can really appreciate this kind of project. A great idea.
I've planted echinacea seedlings this year. I was a bit concerned that they might spread uncontrollably but they seem quite well behaved in clumps in your photos.

August 4, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterb-a-g

Deb this is a wonderful idea and such a peaceful wild place. I wish more cities did this.

August 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDonna@Gardens Eye View

I am so drawn to these kinds of gardens, very natural, almost prarie like. They often look unplanned, but gorgeous, and need little help from man. And any time you can rescue a blighted area, that's a bonus. There was a brownfield in my hometown that has since been rescued, and turned into a Jack Nicklaus golf course and high end beach houses. You'd never know it's history.

August 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobinL

Its a great project, will be cool to see how it develops over the years to come

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMark and Gaz

There should be more of this in other cities, a real breath of fresh air. Oh, I have to say, its a treat to read the clear sensibly sized text on your blog.

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlistair

What a lovely area! So glad Birmingham reclaimed this area and made it so pretty. Reminds me of NYC's High Line, where they did the same type of thing along an old abandoned railway line.

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAstrid

I've recognized as we travel about the country's larger cities how, after a short time, our soul seems to yearn for green. It calms our spirit and allows us to release the stress that big cities often bring. I would guess that cities with projects like Birmingham's Railroad Park may have a lower crime rate. Makes sense.

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarolyn

You know, I think I'm going to have to map all the blogs I regularly read. For some reason I had no idea you were only miles from Birmingham. Its like I have people split in my head, as Southern gardens, northern gardens, western gardens, UK gardens, and the odd aussie or south africaner. Anyhow, nice town, and had quite a time in the area a few years on a 'Deep South Roadtrip."

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJess

Great post Deb. This is a wonderful park. Very true that it is inspiring some great new projects. As much as I hate to see the Baron's leave Hoover, it will be GREAT for Birmingham to have them back downtown.... I am really enjoying this "cool spell" in August....

August 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChris
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