Overall, Ruffner was extremely pleased with the turnout at both the Nature Center meeting yesterday afternoon, and the Irondale Town Hall meeting. We had a good turnout at both, and the tone overall was civil.
First Meeting: Nature Center
At the Ruffner Nature Center, which lasted from roughly 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm, our Executive Director, Carlee Sanford, basically reiterated the main talking points of the post above:
The history of the plot of land itself, Ruffner’s communications with Walter Energy and subsequently with J&S Construction. We urge you to re-read paragraphs two and three of the original post for this summary.
Ruffner has contact Matthew Coffing of CSX regarding Ruffner’s access to the Mineral Railroad line. This rail line runs the entire length of the mountain, from its southwestern tip in Gate City to Roebuck Springs, running along the southern portion of the mountain at its base (essentially parallel to Ruffner Road).
This rail line is instrumental in Ruffner’s future plans for the trail system on the mountain, as well as connecting disparate regions of the mountain to hopefully one day form an integrated whole--a single ecosystem--accessible to the public (more or less).
What can you do to help? Become a Ruffner Member (ruffnermountain.org/support); call, write, or email the City of Irondale and the City of Birmingham to express your concern over the closure of this treasured Ruffner trailhead!
Second Meeting: Town Hall
Last night's standing room only town hall meeting with Irondale mayor Charles Moore was well attended. We were happy to see a large number of the Ruffner Mt. meeting attendees in the audience!
The subject of Ruffner Mountain came up multiple times, first with Beth Stewart, Director of the Cahaba River Society. Beth expressed her hope that Irondale's natural areas--Cahaba River, Ruffner Mountain, and more--would be a priority for the future of the City. Ruffner Mountain's Director, Carlee Sanford, followed up with two questions regarding the Mayor's perception on the financial impact Ruffner Mountain and the Cahaba River has on Irondale's economy. The mayor responded that he believes they provide an indirect, positive impact on the local economy.
A little over two years ago the Regional Planning Commission was hired to create a master plan for the City of Irondale. Ruffner's relationship with Irondale was brought up again when it was asked if Irondale adopted the commission's plan and if it was being followed in terms of green space, neighborhood connectivity, and zoning. Both a councilor and the mayor simply replied that "yes," the plan was adopted and was being followed. This exchange opened the floor for more questions and comments from the audience regarding the situation with the current Irondale trailhead.
Residents expressed appreciation for the location of the current trailhead, many stating that they had moved to the area specifically because of this access point to the mountain. Many reflected on their long-time use of the trailhead and their memories of family outings at Ruffner and the significance of this trailhead to them.
Zoning and the proximity of an industrial business to this trailhead, the adjacent ball fields, and residential housing was mentioned and echoed by many in attendance. Further, it was brought up that it was this proximity posed a dangerous situation for families and children particularly with the added tractor trailer traffic in this location.
Overall, the meeting was very positive, with valid concerns expressed to the mayor and council persons in the room.
Ruffner Mountain appreciates mayor Charles Moore for his openness in hosting a townhall meeting and addressing the variety of topics brought up, and Ruffner particularly appreciates those in attendance for advocating for quality of life issues particularly in protecting rivers, green spaces and access to those areas, and acknowledging the positive financial impact both in desirability of home location and increased "indirect" impact these green spaces have on the on the local economy.
Thanks to all who came out to these invaluable meetings!