Sign dedication held for Helena’s Cahaba Blueway access site

By GRAHAM BROOKS / Staff Writer

HELENA – Visitors to the Helena Amphitheater and nearby Buck Creek will now be equipped with knowledge that includes important information about access points, paddling and river safety tips, links to local paddling outfitters and retailers and more thanks to a sign dedicating Helena as one of 15 Cahaba Blueway access sites.

A sign dedication ceremony was held the morning of Tuesday, April 16 near Buck Creek as Brian Rushing with The University of Alabama Center for Economic Development and Helena city officials were on hand to witness the unveiling of the new sign.

The University of Alabama Center for Economic Development and its partners developed the Cahaba Blueway program to enhance public awareness of the river as a recreational destination, to make available the information needed for safe navigation on the river, and to facilitate the development of access infrastructure to make getting on and off the water with a canoe or kayak safer and easier.

“We created this program in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy in Alabama, the Cahaba River Society, the Freshwater Land Trust and the Cahaba Riverkeeper,” Rushing said. “The Cahaba Blueway is a water trail and a paddling trail but it is really more than that. In addition to establishing the trail, we wanted through this program to not only heighten awareness about the Cahaba River and its tributaries like Buck Creek as being important recreational destinations, but it’s also providing information that people need in order to access the river in a safe and informed way. It also helps facilitate the creation of infrastructure that makes access safer for people.”

Buck Creek, which flows through the Helena Amphitheater Park in Old Town Helena, is one of 15 Cahaba River accesses that are officially being designated as Cahaba Blueway access sites during the month of April.

Flowing from the city of Trussville, just northeast of Birmingham, to Old Cahawba Archaeological Park west of Selma, the Cahaba River connects 10 municipalities and six counties along its 200-mile course. It is among the most biologically diverse and scenic rivers in North America and is an outstanding natural asset that has significant potential to enhance quality of life in nearby communities and to generate economic development through recreational and nature-based tourism.

Helena Mayor Mark Hall said the city will continue to put forth efforts to keep Buck Creek the best it can be and cited the city’s $8 million project a few years ago at the wastewater treatment facility as one of those efforts.

“It’s very important to us because of Buck Creek being here that we participate in every effort we can to promote use of the creek,” Hall said. “Also, to keep the creek clean and free of trash and debris and contaminates.”

In addition to the sign, program partners have created a website at Cahabablueway.org where visitors can get all of the information they need to plan a paddling trip on the river.

The site features an interactive map with information about each access point and river section, important paddling and river safety tips, and links to local paddling outfitters and retailers as well as local hospitality and tourism information resources. The site also features guideline documents that communities are invited to use as they develop safe, environmentally sustainable and durable accesses along the river.