The histories of Three Mile Creek and Mobile have been intertwined for centuries. One of the original sources of drinking water for the French colonists, it served as a legal boundary when the city limits were defined in 1814.
Recent times have not been as kind for Bayou Chotage, as it is identified on vintage maps. The encroachment of neighborhoods and businesses, as well as flood control plans, forced city officials in the 1940s to look west for a more reliable source to satisfy the thirsts of an ever-growing population.
Since then, Three Mile Creek turned into not much more than a drainage ditch and reservoir for trash flowing from city streets after a heavy rain.
However, a massive effort fueled by public and private organizations is looking to change it. The goal is to create a greenway that includes a walking/biking path along the banks, while also making the waterway suitable for use by kayaks and canoes.
The community will receive an introduction to this plan at the 2015 Creek Fest on Saturday, May 9, at Tricentennial Park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“We want to bring people to the water,” said Kelly Warren of the Mobile County Health Department, one of the event’s sponsors. “There are a lot of people who don’t know a park exists on Three Mile Creek. It is a fantastic place. We want to show the possibility of this waterway. We want everyone to see our plans for the linear park along the creek.”
Warren serves with Women Making A Difference, a public health advisory group. It was Dr. Bernard Eichold II, Mobile County Health Department health officer, who encouraged the creation of the panel in 2012.
“He wanted us to look at different issues that affect health and well-being,” Warren said. “We wanted to rally around projects that would benefit the community by making it a healthier place.”
The group looked at the problems of obesity, cardiovascular disease and depression. It led to the idea of creating a safe and clean place for outdoor recreation.
Three Mile Creek seemed to provide the perfect opportunity. The 12-mile-long body of water runs through six of Mobile’s seven council districts plus sections of Prichard, and into all three of the county commission districts.
“We think of it as a creek, but many people who see it consider it a river,” Warren said. “It can be a space that people all along the creek could use for a bicycle and running path.”
The sponsors hope Creek Fest will showcase its potential. The family-friendly celebration is free and will include a cane pole fishing tournament for ages 16 and under. Eric Erdman will provide live music, while Mobile Gas will serve hot dogs. Groups will set up educational exhibits, and there will be opportunities for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to earn merit badges.
Kayaks will be available to rent, but Warren encourages participants to bring their own shallow-draft, non-motorized vessels. Although no launches have been constructed at this point, the banks are accessible for sliding canoes and kayaks into the water. For more information, visit www.creekfest.org.
Other sponsors for the event include Mobile Baykeeper, Keep Mobile Beautiful, Mobile Bay National Estuary Program, Mobile Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau, Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Mobile Area Water & Sewer System and Mobile BayBears.
“We want the people to leave with an understanding of how we all impact the creek,” Warren said. “We want the children to grow into non-littering adults.”
The 9,000-foot-long section along Tricentennial Park is only part of the master plan. City officials hope to extend the paths west into Spring Hill and east toward the Mobile River. At that point, the Crepe Myrtle Trail will link with the project.
To recognize this section, the second annual Crepe Myrtle Trail Bike Ride is set for Saturday, May 16, at 9 a.m. The free event, sponsored by Mobile United, will give participants the chance to travel along the east side of the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley near the bay.
Registration for the 11-mile ride (with stops) will begin at 8:30 a.m. at Arlington Park off Broad Street. A beginner-friendly pace of 8 to 12 miles per hour is planned. There will be educational talks about the Crepe Myrtle Trail and the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta estuary.
A more detailed look at the Three Mile Creek waterway project will appear in next week’s Lagniappe.
Very busy Mother’s Day weekend
For those across the bay, the sixth annual Good Life Ride is set for Saturday, May 9. The ride is open to both experienced and novice riders, according to event sponsors the Good Life Foundation, the Alabama Coastal Foundation and the Baldwin County Trailblazers.
“More people getting out to enjoy our natural resources benefits everyone’s health and our local economy,” said Mark Berte, executive director of the ACF. “We invite our neighbors to the north, as well as to the east and west, to take part in the ride this year.”
Four different routes are offered: a new 62-mile course leaving from Pro Cycle & Triathlon Bicycle Shop in Fairhope at 7:30 a.m.; a 40-mile route leaving from Page & Palette book store in Fairhope at 8 a.m.; a 20-mile option leaving the Magnolia Springs Fire Station at 9 a.m.; and an 8-mile ride from the Orange Beach Sportsplex on the Back Country Trail leaving at 10 a.m.
All the routes will end at The Hangout restaurant in Gulf Shores, for a post-ride celebration that includes food, two complimentary drinks, music and door prizes.